ALLG and MRFF via CanTeen launch new clinical trial to improve the lives of young Australians

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Dr Matthew Greenwood, and Delaine Smith with Minister Greg Hunt and CanTeen CEO

On Wednesday 25 July, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced $3.2 million in funding to four clinical trials that will give adolescent and young adult cancer patients access to cutting-edge treatment.

The Australian Young Cancer Patient Clinical Trials initiative, which has been made possible through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), has the ultimate aim of pursuing research breakthroughs that change lives.

With the support of the MRFF via CanTeen, ALLG launched a new clinical trial (ALL9), which aims to improve outcomes in Adolescent and Young Adult patients with B-lineage Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia by incorporating a novel immune based therapy into the BFM-2000-based standard treatment schedule for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a blood cancer originating in the bone marrow or thymus respectively. Two-thirds of cases occur in adolescents or young adults (15-40 years) and has been associated with inferior outcomes when compared to childhood leukaemia.

ALLG CEO, Delaine Smith said the new clinical trial will have a ‘significant impact’, and will be one of the first trials in the world incorporating this level of treatment for young Australians suffering leukaemia.

“ALL9 is the only proposed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia trial option in Australia for young people and is specifically designed to address the issues that result in low survival rates”, said Ms Smith.

The trial Chief Investigator, Dr Matthew Greenwood said that this important new trial will lead to a better understanding of how to successfully incorporate immune based therapy into treatment of Australian adolescents and young adults with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, as well as having a significant impact on the outcomes of young patients with this type of leukaemia.

“ALL9 will give at least 47 young Australian ALL patients, and at least 29 aged 15-25 years, access to novel immunotherapy in induction.”

“This should translate to improved long term outcomes that results in fewer patients requiring bone marrow transplant, which can expose patients to long term illness and reduction in quality of life”, said Dr Greenwood.

The $3.2 million has been awarded to four clinical trials:

  1. $749K to the Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group (ALLG) in Melbourne for a clinical trial that will aim to improve survival as well as reduce side effects for young people by replacing some of the chemotherapy typically given during treatment with a novel therapy that uses a patient’s immune system to fight Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).
  2. $522K to the Australasian Sarcoma Study Group at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne to make an important international clinical trial available to young Australians with recurrent Ewing Sarcoma, which has extremely poor outcomes and no clear standard of care.
  3. $965K to the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, which will use a personalised treatment approach that targets a specific molecular characteristic commonly seen in young people with a type of brain cancer called medulloblastoma.
  4. $950K to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney in order to boost the participation rate of young people aged 15-25 in a clinical trial that will use state-of-the-art genetic profiling to improve survival rates for people with rare cancers. This is in addition to the recent announcement of $50 million in Federal Government funding.

“It’s a huge step forward for young Australian cancer patients, particularly those diagnosed with rare or deadly types of blood, bone and brain cancers”, said Dr Greenwood.

Ms Smith Continued, “This announcement allows for greater participation in clinical trials for those young people who truly need it.”

“We know young people in the 15-25 age group are often caught between being too old for paediatric trials but still too young for adult trials and that taking part in an early phase clinical trial is the fastest way to access cutting-edge cancer treatment.”

“Young people also have significantly poorer survival rates than children or older adults for cancer types that are common in their age group – around half of the cancer types that affect young people still have 5-year survival rates below 77%.”

“The ALL9 clinical trial is an important study that will have a significant impact on the way future clinical trials in ALL are designed, and, translated into clinical practice”, said Ms Smith.