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Mater Research—University of Queensland (MRI—UQ) Acting Director Professor Maher Gandhi has been awarded $3.6 million to improve treatment for relapsed lymphoma patients.
The funding, announced by the Federal government as part of the Rare Cancers, Rare Diseases and Unmet Need Clinical Trials program, will be used to run a multi-site national trial to investigate new cell-based immunotherapies for a rare sub-type of lymphoma.
Professor Gandhi said B-cell lymphoma can be successfully treated in most patients, but 15-20 per cent of diffuse lymphoma cases are unresponsive to conventional first-line therapy, known as primary refractory disease.
“This is a rare but deadly cancer with an overall survival of only ten months,” Professor Gandhi said.
Working closely with his research team Professor Gandhi will use a proven trial design to rapidly identify patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma who go on to develop primary refractory disease. Once identified, the team will modify the patient’s own T-cells to fight the cancer.
“T-cells are often called the workhorses of the immune system and in this trial we will be giving a patient their own T-cells back, after they have been modified into chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells to fight the cancer,” Professor Gandhi said.
“It is like giving them a ‘living drug’ and we hope that these cells will be able to recognise and kill cancer cells.”
“The clinical trial is less complex than current clinical trials but we expect outcomes that are equally efficient and less expensive. Current clinical trials using CAR T-cells work well against relapsed B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders, but access is limited, and it is a highly expensive at roughly $640K per patient.”
Patients will be recruited through the Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group, the only not-for-profit blood cancer clinical trial group in Australia and New Zealand. Mater Hospital Brisbane will be one of the enrolment sites for the clinical trial and enabling patients who meet the requirements of the study to be identified and recruited as clinical trial participants.
The five year trial is due to commence in 2020.
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