Leukaemia Cancer
A child cancer patient stands at Nicaragua's Association of Mother and Father of Children with Leukaemia and Cancer (MAPANICA) headquarters in Managua February 14, 2015. Reuters/Oswaldo Rivas

The anti-cancer drug Venetoclax has just received Australia approval. The drug was developed by a team of international and Australian scientists and now it has been reported that the drug can “melt away” certain advanced forms of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). This type of Leukaemia affects 1,300 Australians every year. Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved the drug that was developed in Melbourne.

The anti-cancer drug Venetoclax will be extremely beneficial for patients with relapsed or refractory CLL with 17p deletion. This makes Leukaemia resistant to standard treatment options. It will also help those Leukaemia cancer sufferers for whom no other treatment options are available, reports Gizmodo Australia. Venetoclax will be marketed as Venclexta for stage four patients with the disease.

“As a scientist what you dream of is that what you do and work on the bench will make a difference for patients. I think it is incredibly exciting for us to see the many years of hard work into a difficult scientific problem being developed into a new drug and eventually benefiting patients,” Prof. David Huang, one of the drug developers, told the ABC.

Professor Andrew Roberts, cancer researcher at the University of Melbourne and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and clinical haematologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, said that the anti-cancer drug Venetoclax is being combined with other approved drugs and also undergoing phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials in other blood cancers. He believes that this is just the beginning of the milestone as the drug will be really active against other cancers.

The anti-cancer drug Venetoclax works by blocking the BCL-2 protein that enables cancer cells to survive. In Leukaemia patients, this BCL-2 molecule is highly overactive. The scientists designed Venetoclax “to specifically inhibit BCL-2 function” and force the cancer cells to commit cell suicide. The drug can be taken as a tablet once a day and the process to list it under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme has already begun.

“The fact that Australians with hard-to-treat chronic lymphocytic leukaemia can now benefit from a drug like Venetoclax demonstrates how critically important medical research is to the health of our community,” Roberts added.

Also Read: New blood cancer drug Australia: Venetoclax is a relief to Leukaemia sufferers when all other treatments have failed