Australians With One Of Most Agressive Forms Of Blood Cancer Have New PBS Listed Treatment Option

From 1 February 2022, Calquence® (acalabrutinib) will be listed on the PBS as monotherapy for patients with relapsed/refractory mantle cell lymphoma (MCL).1,2

  • Blood cancers combined are the second most deadly form of cancer in Australia:3
    MCL is a rare form of blood cancer and relapse is common.4
  • COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant psychological distress for blood cancer patients who are among the most at risk of serious illness from the virus:5,6 Blood cancer patients need to take extra care to avoid being exposed to the virus by reducing time at potential high-risk places such as crowds, supermarkets, and public transport.6
  • Calquence is an oral medication indicated for the treatment of relapsed/refractory mantle cell lymphoma:1,2 Calquence is a ‘BTK inhibitor.’ Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) is a protein in the body that helps blood cancer cells grow and survive. Calquence works by blocking BTK.1

1 February 2022: AstraZeneca welcomes today’s listing of Calquence® (acalabrutinib) on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) as a monotherapy for patients with relapsed/refractory mantle cell lymphoma (rrMCL).1,2

The vast majority of those diagnosed with MCL are likely to relapse following initial treatment.7,8 For these people, the PBS listing of Calquence means they now have an additional treatment option for this aggressive form of blood cancer that can be taken from home.1,2,9

Currently there is a high financial cost associated with blood cancers due to the use of treatments that involve long term hospitalisation including high dose chemotherapies, stem cell transplants and blood transfusions.10Calquence a next-generation BTK inhibitor for the treatment of MCL that can be taken at home, meaning people living with MCL do not need to visit the hospital for administration.1,11

“MCL patients are prone to relapse and often end up in hospital for chemotherapy which can cause side effects including fatigue, impacting on their ability to perform daily activities,” said Dr John Casey, Clinical Haematologist at the Icon Cancer Centre in Townsville. “They are hospitalised often which can make them stressed and tired as well as their partner who they rely on for care.

“BTK inhibitors are changing the way we treat Australians living with MCL, a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer. The listing of Calquence, a BTK inhibitor that can be taken orally, for relapsed refractory MCL means patients now have an additional treatment option that can be taken at home or in other settings outside of the hospital,” said Dr Casey.

Blood cancers combined are the second most common form of cancer and second most frequent cause of death from cancer in Australia.3 Impacting mainly the elderly, Australia’s ageing population has contributed to an increase in blood cancer diagnosis in recent years.10,12

“Living with an incurable cancer like mantle cell lymphoma is incredibly difficult on those with the disease as well as their carers. In the last decade, we haven’t seen many new treatment options become available for mantle cell lymphoma patients so the reimbursement of Calquence as an additional option is welcome news for Australians whose mantle cell lymphoma has relapsed or are intolerant to existing therapy options,” said Sharon Millman, CEO, Lymphoma Australia.

For people living with blood cancer, in particular those with lymphoma, hospital visits can be frequent and long.13 Because these patients are often elderly, managing their disease may leave many needing support to perform daily tasks, in addition to covering the out-of-pocket costs associated with travel and long hospital stays.10,14

“This listing is another treatment for patients with mantle cell lymphoma patients, particularly those living in regional and remote areas who often have to leave their home to receive current intravenous treatment. With the number of Australians facing a blood cancer diagnosis continuing to rise, we look forward to seeing further progress to improve access to the latest medicines and treatment for all Australians living with this blood cancer in the future,” said Chris Tanti, CEO, Leukaemia Foundation.

“AstraZeneca is committed to transforming the lives of blood cancer patients in Australia. Today’s PBS listing of Calquence means those patients whose mantle cell lymphoma has relapsed or cannot tolerate current treatment now have an additional treatment option which they can take from the comfort of their own home,” said Liz Chatwin, Country President Australia and New Zealand.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to increased mental health strain and psychological distress felt by 1 in 3 Australians living with blood cancer, who have an increased rate of severe infection from the COVID-19 virus.5,6 With the COVID-19 pandemic, blood cancer patients must take extra care to avoid being exposed to the virus by staying away from crowds, socially distancing and consider their movements.6

ABOUT LYMPHOMA4

Lymphoma is the sixth most common cancer in Australia in adult men and women. It can affect people of all ages and is the most common blood cancer. Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system and affects lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell. When lymphocytes gain DNA mutations they divide and grow uncontrollably resulting in lymphoma.

There are two main types of lymphocytes – B-cells and T-cells. Lymphomas growing from B-cells are more common and account for around 85 per cent of lymphoma cases; those caused by T-cells around 15 per cent.

ABOUT MCL4

MCL is one of several subtypes of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that affects men more than women, usually in patients over 60. MCL accounts for 5-10 per cent of all NHLs. The disease is called ‘mantle cell lymphoma’ because the lymphoma cells grow from the ‘mantle zone’ (the outer edge) of the lymph node.

Indication1: Calquence is indicated for the treatment of patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) who have received at least one prior therapy.

Precautions1: Patients should inform their doctor if they have any of the following medical conditions: bleeding, infections, liver problems, liver infection, heart rhythm problems, any other medical condition, or if they have recently undergone/plan to have surgery, use during pregnancy, breastfeeding or if under the age of 18 years.

Interactions1: Some medicines used to treat heart rhythm disturbances, fungal infections, HIV, hepatitis C, epilepsy, stomach acid, diabetes and other cancers, some antibiotics, medicines that increase the risk of bleeding including some medicines used to treat pain and inflammatory conditions or to prevent blood clots, and St John’s Wort may interfere with Calquence. Please discuss with your health professional.

Side Effects1: Very common orery common side effects for MCL include: anaemia, thrombocytopenia, headache, neutropenia, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, myalgia, bruising, rash, haemorrhage/haematoma, epistaxis.

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