New Treatment for Aussies living with asbestos related cancer to be on the PBS

Bristol Myer Squibb:

Australians living with inoperable malignant mesothelioma – a rare and aggressive cancer mainly due to asbestos exposure1 – are set to access the nation’s first reimbursed immunotherapy for this cancer.

OPDIVO® (nivolumab) plus YERVOY® (ipilimumab) will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from July 1, 2021 for unresectable malignant mesothelioma.2 Known as ‘checkpoint inhibitors’, these immunotherapies work together to help activate the immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells.3,4

 Medical oncologist from Greenslopes Private Hospital, Dr Keith Horwood, Brisbane, said the reimbursement of a new therapy represents a significant milestone for Australians living with this devastating disease.

“Each year, between 700-800 Australians are diagnosed with mesothelioma,1,5 an aggressive cancer with poor survival rates.1,6

“Although Australia has one of the world’s highest incidence rates of mesothelioma,1,7 we have limited PBS reimbursed treatment options for patients.2,8

 “For survival rates to improve, patients must receive timely access to novel treatments, which is why as clinicians, we welcome the first reimbursed immunotherapy for mesothelioma,” said Dr Horwood.

More than 90 per cent of Australians living with mesothelioma cite possible or probable exposure to asbestos, as the cause of their disease1 with men more likely to be diagnosed due to increased workplace exposure to asbestos.

According to CEO of Lung Foundation Australia, Mark Brooke, Brisbane: “Mesothelioma can lay dormant for decades,9 taking between 20 – 60 years to develop after asbestos exposure.10 This means diagnosis is often delayed and most patients present with advanced or inoperable disease.11

“Early diagnosis, support, and access to treatment and care is therefore critical to improving outcomes for Australians living with this rare and aggressive cancer,” Mr Brooke said.

“The PBS listing of the first immunotherapy for inoperable malignant mesothelioma will be warmly received by patients and their families.”

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with a five-year survival rate of less than 10 per cent.9 Approximately 90 per cent of newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients have pleural mesothelioma, which starts in the lining of the lungs.7,12

Medical Director of Bristol-Myers Squibb Australia and New Zealand, Dr Melinda Munns, Melbourne said today’s listing is a significant milestone for Australian patients living with unresectable malignant mesothelioma.

“Today we celebrate the achievement of securing reimbursement for the first immunotherapy for inoperable malignant mesothelioma, bringing a new treatment option to the patient community and their clinicians.”

TGA indication

OPDIVO (nivolumab) in combination with YERVOY (ipilimumab), is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM)

 About Immuno-Oncology

Immuno-oncology is based on the premise that the immune system is the body’s most powerful and effective tool for recognising and fighting disease. Immuno-oncology treatments are designed to harness the patient’s own immune system to combat cancer, by targeting the same immune pathways that tumour cells use to evade recognition and destruction.

About Malignant Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the mesothelium – a thin layer of tissue which covers most of the body’s internal organs.12 The disease starts in the cells of the body’s linings, most commonly the linings of the chest.1,6 Exposure to asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma.11,13 Approximately 9 in 10 patients have pleural mesothelioma,6 affecting the lining of the lungs.9

About Opdivo® and Yervoy®3,4

Opdivo and YERVOY belong to a class of medicines known as checkpoint inhibitors, a type of immunotherapy.

OPDIVO is a programmed death-1 (PD-1) immune checkpoint inhibitor. PD-1 is a protein which can make the tumour invisible, stopping the body’s immune system from recognising and destroying lung cancer cells. OPDIVO attaches to the PD-1 protein, allowing the immune system to ‘see’ the tumour.3

Yervoy is a monoclonal antibody that attaches to the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4)4 and stops it from working, which can boost the body’s immune response against cancer cells.4

 Both OPDIVO and YERVOY act on the immune system and may cause inflammation. Inflammation may cause serious damage to a patient’s body, and some inflammatory conditions may be life-threatening. The most common (≥10%) adverse events observed with OPDIVO in combination with YERVOY were rash, fatigue, diarrhoea, pruritis, hypothyroidism, and nausea.3,4


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About Bristol-Myers Squibb
Bristol-Myers Squibb™ is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. For more information about Bristol-Myers Squibb™, visit