Govt funds genetic test and treatment for kids’ cancer

Bayer Australia

For the first time, Australian children will receive government funded access to a medicine and matching genetic test that enables the underlying cause of multiple NTRK gene fusion cancers to be treated. From 1 July, Vitrakvi (larotrectinib) will be made available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for the treatment of children aged from one-month diagnosed with NTRK (neurotrophic tyrosine receptor kinase) positive tumours, as well as for adults with NTRK fusion positive advanced mammary analogue secretory carcinoma (a form of salivary gland cancer) and secretory breast cancer.

Importantly, Medicare funding is also being provided for the genetic testing required to identify NTRK gene fusion, an essential step before treatment with Vitrakvi can be considered. Eligible patients will pay just $6.80 (on concession) or $42.50 (general patients) each month for Vitrakvi. Without a PBS listing, the medicine would cost around $100,000 per year, and the diagnostic NTRK fusion test can cost up to $2,000.

NTRK fusion is a specific genetic change that occurs for no apparent reason and acts as an ‘ignition switch’ for tumour growth. Vitrakvi works by blocking the protein that is produced following the fusion process, thereby halting tumour development. Interviews are available with: – Owen Finegan, CEO, Kids’ Cancer Project – Professor David Eisenstat, Head of the Children’s Cancer Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne; – Associate Professor Jordan Hansford, children’s brain cancer specialist, Adelaide, – Dr Nick Gottardo, Head of Children’s Haematology and Oncology, Perth Children’s Hospital

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