Melbourne-developed Venetoclax is a drug that is part of a new movement in medicine. It attacks specific cancer-causing biological factors like cell-structure mutations. Robert Oblak was on of the patients who took place in the 2013 trial. Fighting chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood and the bone marrow, he knew he wanted to try a different approach.
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"I think I was the eleventh person in the world to have it," he said. "It was amazing."
His leukemia went into remission in a year.
"It causes no side-effects. Nothing, absolutely nothing," he said. "Quite amazing. So even when it's killing cells, you feel great."
The trial was overseen by Professor John Seymour of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, who said that the treatment worked differently than traditional therapies: "Cells, when they are born, are destined to die and cancer cells and particularly leukaemia cells delay that death by using a protein called BCL2 that stops the normal time of death," he explained. "Venetoclax works by specifically blocking the action of that BCL2 and allows the cells to die in the way that they were destined to."
In the trial, 4 of 5 patients had a positive result, with one having complete remission. Some patients did have a negative result, according to ABC.net.
The drug is not available in Australia, even though the EU and US have fast-tracked it.
The developers of Venetoclax, David Huang and a team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, were given the Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research.
Cancer research has come so far within the last few years, having many major breakthroughs, especially in immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy drugs use the body's immune system to beat cancer. There have been multiple labs popping up all over the world to focus on the treatment using immunotherapy.
Greg Lawson shows that this new classification of drugs really puts hope into the hearts of people. When his melanoma that he had previously beat came back, he used immunotherapy drug, Ipilimumab (Yervoy) was just new.
A year later, his melanomas are gone and he has suffered very few side effects.
"Truly amazing — the fact that it's actually given me the position where I have not got cancer in my body is a great feeling," Lawson said. "I am so glad that research has allowed that drug set to be created, and now that we have got Australian research companies developing drugs, targeting drugs for immunotherapy is just phenomenal."
Still, he knows it isn't a miracle. His wife, Jill, developed melanoma around the same time and she couldn't use a similar treatment.
"She had two sets of the treatment, but was so ill from the side effects that the decision was made to take her off it," Mr Lawson said. "And August 2014, two years ago, she passed."