Leukaemia Foundation welcomes subsidies for access to genomic testing in Australia

Leukaemia Foundation

The Leukaemia Foundation welcomes the recent landmark announcement for the subsidy of the raft of new genomic testing for blood cancer patients in Australia.

This announcement marks an important step with the creation of new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items for blood cancer genomics, following the Leukaemia Foundation’s initial support in April of the Medical Services Advisory Committee’s (MSAC) landmark recommendation.

Genomic testing helps haematologists identify the specific type of blood cancer a patient has, enabling clinicians to more precisely match patients to targeted therapies. It can also help identify whether the patient will respond to treatment and the likelihood of relapse.

The new MBS items 73445, 73446, 73447 and 73448 are being introduced for gene panel testing for haematological malignancies, and items 71202 and 73310 will be introduced for the detection of measurable residual disease (MRD) in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, using flow cytometry and next-generation sequencing methods.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said the Leukaemia Foundation strongly supports the introduction of these new MBS items, and the need for better and more equitable access to genomic testing for blood cancer patients in Australia.

“Sadly, previously many genomic diagnostics with regulatory approval were not publicly subsidised and therefore financially out of reach for many blood cancer patients in this country,” said Mr Tanti.

“These new MBS items will allow more Australians to have a timely and accurate blood cancer diagnosis and will additionally have a major impact on the expenses people have to pay, hopefully decreasing their out-of-pocket costs.”

Up until now, access to genomic diagnostics in Australia has been inequitable,[i] usage has been inconsistent across the population, and ultimately few patients have undergone genomic testing.[ii]

The Leukaemia Foundation’s National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancers and State of the Nation 2023 reports call for genomics to be made a standard of care for treating blood cancers.

“Our recent State of the Nation 2023 report contains new data showing a significant 31 per cent of blood cancer patients who had a genomic test had their diagnosis and treatment plan altered.[iii]

“This is a critical outcome because an accurate blood cancer diagnosis ensures a better and more targeted treatment plan, leading to better patient outcomes and a greater chance of the patient surviving their blood cancer.”

Other reviews and research have reinforced this point including the Novel Therapies Parliamentary Inquiry which found that affordable access to genomic testing is needed not only for blood cancer patients but for the future of Australia’s health system.[iv]

Mr Tanti added, “The Leukaemia Foundation continues to work with the Government on supporting access to genomic testing for blood cancer patients in Australia no matter where they live or where they receive their treatment.

“This includes the Genomics Framework being pursued following the recent release of the Australian Cancer Plan.”

Genomics can be supported to be standard of care through:

  • greater public subsidy of genomic testing
  • investment in diagnostic laboratories and their workforce
  • pathways for genetically trained pathologists
  • encouraging initiatives that support Australia’s scientists to undertake genomics study.


/Public Release.