Victorian medical researchers have developed a revolutionary new drug that will change how we treat blood cancers in the future and around the globe.
Minister for Health Jill Hennessy joined the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Melbourne Hospital last week to announce the results of two recent international studies of a drug called Venetoclax.
Development of the tablet drug Venetoclax was based on the discovery of the protein BCL-2 at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. The drug treats cancer by reducing the activity of BCL-2.
The international trials delivered remarkable results for hard-to-treat patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia and Mantle-Cell Lymphoma. Combined with other standard treatments, Venetoclax saw a high number of blood cancer patients become cancer free.
The global MURANO study showed Venetoclax should replace chemotherapy altogether when treating certain forms of blood cancer, with more than 80% of patients showing little or no detectable trace of cancer in their blood. The drug not only has the power to save lives, but to also significantly improve the quality of life in cancer patients, with reduced side effects from the replacement of chemotherapy.
Since being established in 2006, the Victorian Cancer Agency has invested over $190 million into translational cancer research, including funding towards one of the venetoclax clinical trials. The Victorian cancer plan 2016-2020 sets an ambitious target of saving 10,000 lives from cancer by 2025.
More people are surviving cancer than ever before. The five-year survival rate for Victorians diagnosed with cancer has increased from 48% in 1986 to 68% in 2016, thanks to investments in cancer prevention, treatment and research.