Minister’s Statement

I rise to update the house about a revolutionary new cancer treatment service now being provided in Victoria to children and young adults. The cutting-edge CAR T-cell treatment has commenced at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for Victorian patients and for interstate patients who travel here to receive Victoria’s world-class care. CAR T-cell therapy is a new frontier in cancer treatment that allows the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. It involves removing a patient’s T cells—a type of immune system cell—re-engineering them in a lab and reinserting them back into one’s body to attack and kill the cancer cells.

ln 2017 there were 105 new diagnoses for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), and 60 were in children or young adults. We expect about half of these young people to now be treated here in Victoria. Until recently families have had to take their children overseas to access what is very expensive CAR T-cell treatment, incurring costs of approximately $500 000 per person plus hospital costs—costs that families have had to pay out of pocket. Victoria has been working with the commonwealth to bring this treatment to our state and we are proud to be the first state that will be able to help kids and young adults with ALL to get access to this treatment. These are children who would otherwise be palliative. This is typically a last-resort treatment. This treatment will now be available for children and young people in our world-class hospitals, and I am grateful for the incredible work that they do every day. This is just another example of Victoria punching above its weight when it comes to our world-class health and medical research, which is giving Victorian patients direct clinical benefits.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Professor Jacques Miller from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, who has been awarded the prestigious Lasker Award overnight in the United States. Professor Miller’s discovery of T and B cells paved the way for a generation of vaccines, organ transplants and immunotherapies that are now used for cancer treatment. I think we should all be very proud as Victorians that Professor Miller has been such a trailblazer in health and medical research in our state. We are very grateful for the work that he has performed.