Cancer Australia defines immunotherapy as a treatment that uses certain parts of a person's immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapies are thought to work by slowing the growth and spread of cancer cells, and by helping the immune system destroy existing cancer cells.
Immunotherapy can be given in different ways, including:
orally, as pills (tablets, capsules) or liquid
intravenously (injected into a vein)
topically, as a cream to rub onto skin
intravesically, administered directly into the bladder.
Unfortunately this form of cancer treatment is not yet available in Australia.
Immunotherapy is only in very early stages of development (stage 2 and 3 clinical trials) in Australia. There is one immunotherapy drug that has been approved in Australia, for melanoma and lung cancer only. It may be accessible for other cancer types in a clinical trial, however at a significant cost to the individual.
Marc is working with his oncology medical team to try and get onto a clinical trial in Australia, however the costs are expected to be similar to that of doing treatment in Germany.
Why can we get this treatment in Germany?
Immunotherapy is more established in Germany. They have moved beyond the clinical trial stage and are actively administering these treatments and drugs in hospitals and private clinics. Many of the treatments are fully integrated and covered by the German national health system, which means that German nationals can access the treatment without cost. For non-German nationals, treatment can be accessed through the private system, at a cost.
The team that Marc has chosen to work with is led by Professor Stefaan Van Gool of the IOZK clinic in Cologne.
Cancer Australia was established by the Australian Government in 2006 to benefit all Australians affected by cancer, and their families and carers. Cancer Australia aims to reduce the impact of cancer, address disparities and improve outcomes for people affected by cancer by leading and coordinating national, evidence-based interventions across the continuum of care.
As the lead national cancer control agency, Cancer Australia also makes recommendations to the Australian Government about cancer policy and priorities.