Gilead Opens First CAR T-cell Center in Far North Qld

Gilead Sciences

Townsville University Hospital now qualified and able to provide CAR T therapy for people living with certain blood cancers

Melbourne, Australia, 11 July 2024 – Kite, a Gilead company, today welcomed the opening of Australia's first regional Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell Treatment Centre at the Townsville University Hospital (TUH) in Far North Queensland. At an event to mark the opening of the TUH CAR T Treatment Centre, Gilead congratulated the Queensland Government for leading the way in narrowing the healthcare inequity gap by improving access to innovative cancer treatments for people impacted by blood cancers living in regional areas.

Queensland is currently the only state in Australia to have a CAR T Treatment Centre in both a metropolitan and regional area. With the TUH CAR T Treatment Centre now open, suitable patients in Far North Queensland can access CAR T treatment in Townsville, instead of having to travel to Brisbane or beyond to access treatment.

Ms Sharon Millman, CEO of Lymphoma Australia welcomed the TUH CAR T Treatment Centre, saying it would help lessen the significant burden on patients and families from rural and regional areas who would normally have to relocate temporarily to Brisbane to undergo treatment.

"CAR T therapy is now firmly established in the treatment pathway for lymphomas, so we are extremely pleased to see the first regional treatment site in Australia now open and able to offer CAR T therapy options to eligible lymphoma patients living in Far North Queensland," Ms Millman said.

"This is a great first step towards more equitable access to CAR T for Australians living away from existing Treatment Centres. Where you live should not limit your ability to access cancer treatment, and we'd love to see other states and territories certified and able to offer CAR T treatment to eligible patients as soon as possible to reduce the significant burden caused by travel and temporary relocation," Ms Millman added.

In Australia, CAR T Treatment Centres are currently located in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. They include Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre and the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Royal Prince Alfred and Westmead Hospitals in Sydney and Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth.

Gilead echoed Lymphoma Australia's support for the new TUH CAR T Treatment Centre and their call for continued efforts to ensure greater equity in access to CAR T.

Jaime McCoy, General Manager, Gilead Sciences Australia and New Zealand commented "We believe Australians living with blood cancers who are eligible for CAR T should have an option to receive treatment as close to their home as possible, particularly as this highly specialised treatment requires remaining near the hospital for several weeks. This can place a significant burden on patients and their families.

"We remain committed to working with governments, patient advocacy groups and the clinical community to establish much needed additional CAR T treatment centres, particularly in SA, ACT, Tasmania and the NT where disappointingly there are no centres able to give treatment at all, meaning that patients must then relocate interstate for a period of time" she added.

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