Leading accessibility of a revolutionary immunotherapy in NSW

Professor David Gottlieb

Professor David Gottlieb

The University of SydneyCancer Council NSW Funding: $3,750,000Funding duration: 2019-2023


CAR T-cell immunotherapy is one of the most exciting cancer therapies to emerge in recent years. This type of treatment involves taking a patient’s own immune cells, growing them in a highly specialised clinical laboratory, reprogramming them to attack only cancer cells or infections, and then returning them to the patient. Based on successful clinical trials, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recently approved CAR T-cell immunotherapy for use in paediatric and young adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and adult patients with a particular type of lymphoma who have failed other treatments, including chemotherapy. This is fantastic news for the approximately 100 patients each year in NSW who are potentially eligible for CAR T-cell immunotherapy.

It is likely CAR T-cells will also benefit patients beyond the initial TGA approvals for use of the therapy. The challenge now is to ensure CAR T-cell immunotherapy is accessible to all patients in NSW who could potentially benefit from this treatment and to fast-track research on expanding CAR T-cell immunotherapy for other cancers.

The research

Up until now, CAR T-cell production in Australia has been on a small scale for use in specific clinical trials. Professor Gottlieb and his team will develop methods for upscaling CAR T-cell production in NSW – accelerating the introduction of this cutting-edge therapy in NSW and making treatment more affordable. The team will also run an education program on how to administer CAR T-cell immunotherapy in major hospitals across NSW to expand access to treatment. For patients who are eligible for CAR T-cell immunotherapy now, this project will be of significant and immediate benefit.

The range of cancers that could potentially be treated with CAR T-cell immunotherapy is growing, with much research activity in this space in Australia and internationally. Professor Gottlieb and his team will build on their knowledge and experience to progress pre-clinical research on the effectiveness of this immunotherapy for the treatment of other cancers including myeloma, myeloid leukaemia, colon cancer, hepatoma, HPV positive oropharyngeal and anogenital cancer and fungal infections in cancer patients.

CAR T-cell therapy is only one of many types of cell therapy that can benefit patients. For cancer patients undergoing stem cell transplants, infection can lead to serious illness or death. Even with treatment, common viral, bacterial or fungal infections can kill because the body’s immune system is weak for up to 12 months after a transplant. As part of this project, Professor Gottlieb and his team will develop a bank of T-cells generated to fight specific infections. These cells can then be used to boost a patient’s immune system reducing duration, complications and suffering caused by infections.

The impact

The work of Professor Gottlieb and his team will translate CAR T-cell and infection specific immunotherapy from research into an accessible treatment option for cancer patients with a leukaemia and lymphoma in NSW. As this revolutionary therapy becomes available for other cancers, the benefit to patients in NSW will continue well into the future.

For patients suffering the consequences of intensive cancer therapies such as reduction in their immune systems, these new treatments will improve their ability to recover from serious infection and enhance their quality of life.

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