Greenslopes Private Hospital Oncologist Reveals New Immunotherapy for Rare Lung Cancer

An oncologist working at the Greenslopes Private Hospital has revealed that Australians now have access to new immunotherapy to manage an inoperable and malignant type of lung cancer.

Beginning 1 July 2021, patients with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure may find treatments like Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab) listed via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Dr Keith Horwood of the Greenslopes Private Hospital said that patients may begin availing and receiving their reimbursements for these treatments.  

He also said that between 700 to 800 Australians are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year, one of the highest numbers around the world. This rare but aggressive cancer has poor survival rates due to the lack of access to timely and innovative treatments thus the Australian medical community welcomes the new scheme with PBS.  

The new immunotherapy helps fight cancer of the lungs by combining two medications that work differently but complementary. OPDIVO and YERVOY help the patient’s immune system and improves their life expectancy. Before the release of this immunotherapy, the five-year survival rate for mesothelioma patients was at 10 percent. 

“These results build upon our decade-long legacy in treating melanoma, which began when the average life expectancy following a diagnosis of metastatic melanoma was roughly six months and less than 10% of patients survived beyond five years,” Gina Fusaro of Bristol Myers Squibb said. “With some of the longest follow-up with immunotherapies to date, Opdivo and Yervoy have consistently demonstrated durable, long-term survival benefits for patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma.” 

According to experts from the Lung Foundation of Australia, mesothelioma takes 20 to 60 years to progress with most patients presenting an advanced and inoperable disease.  Early diagnosis, as well as access to the medications, are crucial to improving the outcomes of patients with this type of cancer.