Australia-first cancer therapy for Townsville

Townsville Hospital. | Newsreel
Townsville Hospital is the first regional centre in Australia to offer CAR T-cell therapy. | Photo: Townsville Hospital and Health Service

Townsville will become the first regional city in Australia to offer a revolutionary new treatment for leukaemia and other blood cancers.

The Townsville Hospital and Health Service in the north Queensland city has been approved to offer CAR T-cell therapy.

State Premier Steven Miles said the new treatment would help patients who have exhausted all treatments traditionally available.

“This is the first time CAR T-cell therapy has been offered to Australians outside of a major capital city, reducing the burden of travel for patients in north Queensland,” Premier Miles said.

Townsville Hospital and Health Service medical director Dr Andrew Birchley said the treatment would be available for north Queensland patients with certain types of blood cancer, including leukemia and lymphoma.

“Bringing this treatment to north Queensland will make the world of difference for patients who would otherwise have to travel all the way to Brisbane at a time when they’re already dealing with the strains of their cancer symptoms and treatment,” Dr Birchley said.

He said CAR T-cell therapy harnessed the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells in the blood.

“T-cells, a type of white blood cell, are removed from the patient’s blood, and flown overseas to a laboratory, where scientist add special receptors called Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CAR) to the T-cells.”

Dr Birchley said the modified CAR T-cells would then be multiplied into large numbers in the lab, before being transported back to Townsville and reinfused into the patient’s body.

“The specialised T-cells are then able to recognise and attack the cancer cells in the patient’s blood.”