27 July 2023

Wollongong patient first in the world to trial new drug to treat blood cancer

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Haematologist Dr Gurdeep Parmar.

Haematologist Dr Gurdeep Parmar said his team was excited to be leading the world in a clinical trial of a new cancer drug. Photo: ISLHD.

An Illawarra cancer patient is the first person in the world to be treated in a clinical trial for a new immunotherapy drug.

The trial will study if the new drug is successful in treating multiple myeloma. Myeloma is a type of blood or haematological cancer that starts in white blood cells, known as plasma cells. It is also known as multiple myeloma because it usually affects multiple areas of the body.

Wollongong Hospital is one of just two sites in the world set up to deliver the trial, with the other in Victoria. Last month, the Wollongong team began treating a local patient with multiple myeloma, who was the first person in the world to be treated under this clinical trial.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) Cancer Clinical Trials Unit is celebrating the world-first achievement.

Haematologist Dr Gurdeep Parmar said he and the Haematology Trials Team were excited to be involved in the clinical trial.

“This study is testing a completely new class of drug for myeloma and providing a new treatment option for people whose previous treatments have not worked or their disease has come back,” Dr Parmar said.

Since ISLHD’s Cancer Clinical Trials Unit was established in 2000, local patients no longer have to travel to Sydney to take part in clinical trials.

Patients receive specialised support and expert clinical care from more than 200 trained and dedicated staff in medical and radiation oncology and haematology.

According to Cancer Australia, clinical trials are an important way to improve treatment for people with cancer.

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The organisation says trials are the only reliable way that doctors and patients can find out the effects of different treatments and if a new treatment is more effective than the current standard treatment. Trials also identify risks and side effects of new treatments.

A new treatment will only become the new standard after it has been proved effective and safe in clinical trials, and shown to be better than other treatments.

ISLHD Director of Clinical and Laboratory Haematology Professor Peter Presgrave said the milestone was significant for the district and local community.

“The ISLHD Cancer Clinical Trial Unit continues to expand and grow, providing the local community with greater access to innovative treatments closer to home … that are not yet available on the market,” Professor Presgrave said.

“The unit’s involvement in this trial for patients is an enormous achievement for the district and is a testament to the level of expertise and high-quality research being made available locally to patients.”

For information about available clinical trials, people should speak with their GP or specialist, email [email protected], or go to ISLHD’s Cancer Clinical Trials website.

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