The founder of China's Hong Kong-based industry conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings, Li Ka-shing, has donated 4.5 million Australian dollars to a world-first immunotherapy trial in Australia.
Targeted to mesothelioma and advanced pancreatic cancer sufferers, the trial is also expected to hold huge potential for a range of other diseases including lung, ovarian and breast cancers.
Named the Li Ka-shing Cell and Gene Therapy Initiative, the project will be headed up by the University of Sydney, along with a range of other Aussie partners.
"This visionary act of generosity from the Li Ka-shing Foundation unlocks the potential to create new-generation gene therapies that could offer new hope to cancer patients," Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney Dr. Michael Spence said on Tuesday.
According to researchers, developing treatments for rare cancers like pancreatic cancer is a major challenge, due to the lower numbers of patients and perceived lack of commercial return.
But with a survival rate of just 7 percent, every year around 500,000 worldwide succumb to the tragic disease.
However, by genetically reprogramming white blood cells, the team believes it's possible to use one's own blood to specifically target and kill cancer cells.
"This groundbreaking trial will be the first in Australia to test CAR T-cell immunotherapy in a solid tumor," trial lead Professor John Rasko said.
"With support from the Li Ka-shing Foundation, we propose to expand capability by undertaking a potentially curative clinical trial."
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