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Find out more about the new Cancer Therapy that’s set to break the glass ceiling in Australian cancer treatment

August 7, 2019

August 7, 2019

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Find out more about the new Cancer Therapy that’s set to break the glass ceiling in Australian cancer treatment

The more prevalent role that algorithms, automation and data have on our day to day existence, mean that the everyday person is more cogent than ever of the role statistics play in modern life. One statistic which is particularly difficult to ignore for most Australians, despite us hailing from the ‘lucky country’, Australia has the highest cancer rate in the world, with 468 cases per 100,000 people.

The more prevalent role that algorithms, automation and data have on our day to day existence, mean that the everyday person is more cogent than ever of the role statistics play in modern life. One statistic which is particularly difficult to ignore for most Australians, despite us hailing from the ‘lucky country’, Australia has the highest cancer rate in the world, with 468 cases per 100,000 people.

Naturally, with this, the hunt for “the cure” for cancer is a consistent, ever present and urgent narrative. Cancer is a diverse and misunderstood disease, has affected 1 in 2 Australians in a direct manner but has had a universal effect on the country through experience, and to this date, we have been unable to come up with a successful and reliable manner of curing the disease.

While most people would be familiar with Chemotherapy as a manner of treatment for a range of cancers, just as similarly almost all people would be familiar with the numbered and often permanent side effects chemotherapy can cause – not to mention its patchy success rates.

As it affects multiple types of cells in your body, not just the cancer cells, it wreaks havoc in the body, causing everything from hair loss to fatigue even months down the line after a completed treatment.

Which is why scientists around Australia and the globe have spent decades researching alternative methods of treating this disease, and in hopeful news, it seems we’re closer to a solution now than ever. Medicinal treatments in the field of cancer are changing from aiming to treat the specific disease, to deciding the best possible treatment path, and ultimately, a cure, for each and every human being.

More scientifically, personalised medicine takes into account the genetic variables, person to person, and with cancer specifically considers further the tumour variability – with the hope that this will lead to more effective outcomes in treating cancer patients and other diseases through synthesised data profiles and accommodated treatments, and personalised cancer drugs are showing increasingly promising results in clinical trials.

Noteworthy Australian actor Tom Long, well known from his roles in ‘The Dish’ and ‘Seachange’ experienced a transformation of his own trajectory recently, witnessing first hand the potential of what one such bespoke therapy could offer in the future.

After trying everything from chemotherapy to cell transplants to alternative medicine – only making him weaker while the tumours grew stronger – Long decided to partake in a special new clinical trial testing a personalised medicine – chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-T) Cells – at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle.

Long was initially given just two years to live, but after the trial he was cancer free.

“After having a death sentence hanging over my head for years I really can’t explain the feeling. I just feel so incredibly grateful for this life and this experience,” Tom Long said.

CAR-T Cells are a personalised drug which harnesses the body’s own immune system, leveraging our natural defences to recognise cancerous cells so they know what to attack.

By taking the patient’s own blood and isolating their immune cells (T cells), genetically modifying them and injecting them back into the patient, these cells can then locate and kill cancer cells.

As it’s tailored specifically to each patient and cancer type, it has the ability to reduce or totally eliminate the carnage done on healthy cells, as well as amplifying how effectively it can destroy malicious tumours.

While cell therapy is not as cutting-edge as it sounds like (engineering cells for conditions such as burns and knee cartilage have been available for more than a decade), combining it with gene therapy is still in its infancy.

Coupled with the arrival of CAR-T cell technology, a whole new frontier of cell-based and gene-based medicine is underway, one that according to initial clinical studies such as the one Tom Long participated in, is incredibly promising.

T-cell therapy has been approved in Australia now after it has seen remarkable results in clinical trials overseas with Australian companies leading their own research to speed up the process of making this treatment viable, Professor Miles Prince being one of the front-runners of the research and the one to direct Tom Long’s attention to the clinical trials that would save his life.  As director of the Centre for Blood Cell Therapies as well as Molecular Oncology and Cancer Immunology in Epworth, Miles Prince is involved in major research programs involving personalised cancer treatments.

He is far from the only one – T-cell therapy could become “the cancer cure” down the line, and researchers all around the world are working to make it happen.

 


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