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27th May 2024 Latest News Cancer

New personalised therapy for melanoma could be lifesaving

Jonas Elin 240521 IMG_7011 web cropped

A new technique to target advanced solid cancers like metastatic melanoma is set to become available in Australia, a potential game-changer that could be lifesaving for people with cancer.

Cellular immunotherapy using tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) is a personalised immunotherapy to treat advanced solid cancers, like metastatic melanoma. Researchers believe TILs are critical biomarkers in predicting the effectiveness and outcome of treatment.

Researchers from the Western Australia Melanoma Initiative (WAMI) are hoping to establish immunotherapy manufacturing in Western Australia thanks to a major funding collaboration.

The Cancer Research Trust has provided a $2.5 million grant and a further $1 million has also been pledged from various funders including Spinnaker Health Research Foundation, part of The Hospital Research Foundation Group.

Led by Professor Jonas Nilsson and Professor Elin Gray, the main goal of WAMI is to provide patients with TIL therapy as an improved option for those who are not benefitting from standard immunotherapy.

TIL therapy is not yet available in Australia for patients with melanoma because it requires specialised knowledge and facilities, it’s very time consuming and expensive and it is technically challenging. The treatment, however, is available and free of charge in countries like Denmark and The Netherlands and is seeing promising results.

Prof Nilsson and Prof Gray have the expertise and knowledge to implement TIL therapy and identify patients who would require and benefit from this treatment.

“With this significant investment we will be able to lead the implementation of TIL therapy and identify new ways to improve it,” Prof Gray said.

“We hope to work with other centres around Australia and the world to improve patient outcomes and save lives from those suffering melanoma and also other cancers.”

This project relies heavily on collaboration and that’s exactly what the team are planning, bringing oncologists, surgeons, pathologists and scientists together to create a multidisciplinary team to develop a personalised treatment plan for each patient.

The team will be focussing on biomarkers to monitor treatment responses and to predict which patients may need new therapies if traditional treatment fails.

“We are confident we can already predict who might respond to standard of care immunotherapy, but we need to implement this technology. Having a therapy to offer these patients makes predictive biomarkers very powerful,” Prof Gray said.

Prof Nilsson added: “We will establish a platform of collaboration where early ideas can be realised, tested in advanced models and translated into clinical practice. We are truly lucky to have access to a TGA-accredited clean room facility that can manufacture cell therapies for patients locally.”

The team plan on offering treatments to patients from other states through their clinical collaborators and are hoping to initiate national collaborative projects to leverage further funds to enable to expansion of the program Australia-wide.

We look forward to updating you on this incredible exciting research, that has the potential to save the lives of so many people battling cancer.

We would like to acknowledge and thank the Janine Chalwell Committee who has worked tirelessly over the past three years to raise more than $700,000 for melanoma research. The group’s hard work in raising these funds has contributed to the lifesaving research being undertaken by Prof Gray and Prof Nilsson. Thank you for your hard work, passion and commitment.