A new drug that ‘melts away cancer’ has been given fast-track approval in the United States.
Developed in Melbourne, Australia, Venetoclax was developed to specifically target chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
The drug showed a positive result in 80 per cent of clinical trials, with one in five patients finishing the programme completely cancer-free.
Venetoclax is administered orally every day via a pill. In the original trial, 116 participants increased their dosage from 20 mg to 400 mg over a five-week period.
“It truly does lead to the disease melting away in 20 per cent of people,’ said Professor Andrew Roberts, a clinical haematologist and head of clinical translation at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.
Professor John Seymour, who helped coordinate the trial, explained: “Cells, when they are born, are destined to die and cancer cells and particularly leukemia cells delay that death by using a protein called BCL2 that stops the normal time of death.
"Venetoclax works by specifically blocking the action of that BCL2 and allows the cells to die in the way that they were destined to."
Robert Oblak took part in the 2013 trial and described his course of Venetoclax “as like taking Panadol.”
“It causes no side-effects. Nothing, absolutely nothing,” he maintained.
Despite the majority of trial patients experiencing some benefit from Venetoclax, others did have a negative result.
The drug marks an advance in immunotherapy, a new area of research that assesses how the body’s own immune system can defeat cancer. As yet, it has been used most effectively in the treatment of melanoma.
While Venetoclax has received approval from the European Union and the United States, the drug has not yet been made available in Australia.
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