New melanoma trial in Perth could be life-saver for patients resistant to other treatments

Dr Peter Lau, Associate Professor Zlatibor Velickovic and Professor Jonas Nilsson are delivering an Australian-first trial for metastatic melanoma sufferers. Credit: Andrew Ritchie/The West Australian

A melanoma treatment described as a “holy grail” for patients resistant to other types of immunotherapy will be trialled in Perth in an Australian-first. The director of TIA’s Cell and Tissues Therapies WA (CTTWA) node, Zlatibor Velickovic, (centre) is working closely with Sir Charles Gairdner oncologist Peter Lau and Perkins Institute researcher Jonas Nilsson to bring Tumour Infiltrating Lymphocyte Adoptive Cell Transfer (TIL ACT) to Australia.

The treatment involves the surgical removal of a melanoma tumour, followed by up to 100 billion T cells — cells that help protect the body from infection and can help fight cancer — being expanded from that tumour and then reinfused into the patient through an IV drip. This clinical trial, as well as contributing to vital evidence for the efficacy of the treatment, makes this revolutionary intervention available to Australian patients.

I wanted to start this treatment here in Australia but it wasn’t until I met Professor Velickovic and Dr Lau that it became possible because I only run a research lab. I cannot manufacture cells in my lab for people,” he said.

Prof Nilsson’s words speak to the critical nature of resaerch infrastructure to support research translation. The CTTWA node is one of TIA’s network of Cell and Gene Therapy production facilities that operate at the leading edge of translational research. Supported by funding from TIA and NCRIS, these and other facilities in TIA’s network exists to enable critical health research into therapies that can change and save lives.

Image credit Andrew Ritchie/The West Australian

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