World-first Funding for New Liver Cancer Therapy

Pancare Foundation welcomes the news that a new combination therapy for liver cancer will be added to the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from November 1, 2020.

As part of the Federal Budget, the government is investing $230 million in new therapies for liver cancer. According to the announcement by Federal Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, this support is in line with the expansion of the PBS listing of the combination therapy, atezoluzumab (Tecentriq®) and bevacizumab (Avastin®), for patients living with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma that cannot be surgically removed.

Atezolizumab is a type of therapy called an immune checkpoint inhibitor, which helps the immune system seek out and destroy cancer cells. Bevacizumab is a “targeted” therapy that starves tumours by preventing the formation of new blood vessels. In combination, these therapies have been shown to deliver significant improvements in clinical outcomes as well as patient-reported outcomes when compared to the standard-of-care treatment with sorafenib (IMbrave150 clinical trial; Finn RS, et al. New England Journal of Medicine 382:1894-1905).

Prof Niall Tebbutt, Director of the Department of Medical Oncology, Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness and Research Centre, and Medical Advisory Board Member of Pancare Foundation, one of Australia’s leading not-for-profits committed to raising awareness and funding research for gastrointestinal cancers, said of the announcement, “The availability of this new combination therapy is a real game-changer for Australians living with advanced liver cancer. The evidence supporting the atezolizumab-bevacizumab combination is strong with improved outcomes compared with standard therapy. This new treatment was more effective than standard therapy in helping patients live longer without the cancer progressing as well as living longer overall.”

“It is wonderful news that this treatment will be available on the PBS, which means the therapy will be affordable for those who need it most.”

According to Minister Hunt, more than 500 patients per year could benefit from the PBS listing of this therapy, which would otherwise cost more than $170,000 per course.

On November 1, Australia will become the first country in the world to publicly fund this combination treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma.

About Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Hepatocellular carcinoma, sometimes termed “HCC”, is a type of liver cancer that begins in the hepatocytes, the main type of liver cell. Approximately 75% of primary liver cancers are of this type. This type of cancer can have different growth patterns. Multiple HCC is most often seen in people with liver cirrhosis.

Primary liver cancer in the form of hepatocellular cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the world and usually occurs where there is underlying chronic liver damage.

Read more about hepatocellular carcinoma.

To access numerous PanSupport resources and to understand the range of support options available for those diagnosed with liver cancer or those caring for loved ones living with liver cancer, please visit our support page or call the PanSupport team on 1300 881 698.