CAR T-cell Therapy for Aggressive B-cell Lymphoma

CAR T-cell Therapy for Aggressive B-cell Lymphoma

The Federal Health Minister, Hon. Greg Hunt MP announced today at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, that CAR T-cell therapy (Kymriah, from Novartis) will be manufactured and reimbursed in Australia for eligible adults with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), transformed follicular lymphoma (FL) and primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL).

CAR T-cell therapy will be reimbursed (over $500,000 AUD per person) by the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS) for adult patients who have these lymphoma subtypes who have previously failed at least 2 lines of standard treatment.

CAR T-cell therapy has seen good responses for patients across the world in clinical trials for those with a number of different blood cancers who have been previously unsuccessful with other cancer treatments. Australia now joins only 6 other countries from around the world to provide this potentially lifesaving treatment for patients with lymphoma. Until now, eligible patients have needed to travel to the USA for manufacturing and treatment, while being away from Australia 2-3 months.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, is an exciting new form of immunotherapy that uses specially altered T-cells (lymphocytes) to directly and precisely target cancer cells.
The patient’s own T-cells are collected from the blood and are re-engineered in a special laboratory, so they carry special receptors (CARs) on their surface. The cells are then reinjected back into the patient where they multiply rapidly, and the receptors help the T-cells to identify and attack cancer cells throughout the body.

Dr Michael Dickinson, Lead Aggressive Lymphoma at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre was one of the key leaders that made this announcement a reality. He spoke with Lymphoma Australia after the announcement, where he “welcomed the news for lymphoma patients who now have another option when standard chemotherapy does not work.”

Over the next few months until manufacturing commences in Australia, patients can have their T-cells collected in Australia and manufacturing will be done in the USA. Patients will not have to leave the country which improves patient experience and outcomes.

To see whether you are eligible for CAR T-cell therapy or if this the best option for you, speak to your haematologist.

CAR T-cell therapy first became reimbursed in Australia in 2019, for paediatric and young adults (up to 25 years) with R/R B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (B-ALL). There are also clinical trials across Australia for eligible patients with R/R DLBCL (including second line treatment), follicular lymphoma and R/R mantle cell therapy. (see


CEO Sharon Winton, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Lymphoma Australia patient advocate Deborah Sims, and Lymphoma Nurse Manager Donna Gairns at today’s announcement

More about CAR T-cell

Peter Mac media release –

Nine News coverage –

Understanding CAR T-cell Therapy in Lymphoma – Presented by Dr Michael Dickinson, Consultant Haematologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne Hospital

For more information you are welcome to speak to Donna Gairns, Lymphoma Nurse. Phone 1800 953 081 or email:

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