A vision of improving personalised cancer treatment

Three years ago, Vision Super looked at their insurance claims data – 25% of their insurance claims were cancer-related and sadly 46% of Vision Super members’ deaths were due to cancer. Vision Super decided they needed to do more to help prevent the devastation this creates for their members and families, as well as the wider community.

Over the last three years, Vision Super has made a significant difference to the world of genomics for Australian blood cancer patients, through supporting the Snowdome Foundation.

Since 2014, Snowdome Foundation has funded cutting-edge genomics research and supported incredible advancements with genetic testing. Patients undergo genetic testing, which helps to guide their treatment journey. For some patients, the tests can identify mutations in their cancer for which there’s a targeted therapy or a suitable clinical trial.

The collaborative partnership between Snowdome and Vision Super has had a positive impact on the lives of many blood cancer patients, including Paul Omond.

Paul is a 36-year-old from Scoresby, who in 2012, was diagnosed with Hairy cell leukaemia, a rare type of blood cancer. Conventional therapy proved to be the wrong path for Paul and the side effects resulted in a large portion of his bowel being removed. Paul’s leukaemia then relapsed much sooner than expected. Gene testing of Paul’s leukaemia cells found that they contained a BRAF mutation, which allowed him to go onto a novel targeted therapy specific to that mutation. Paul’s outstanding response to the drug has also greatly improved his quality of life and his cancer is now controlled with minimal side effects.

Instead of chemo, Paul says “I take four tablets a day.” He has to be careful, because the tablets do increase his susceptibility to skin cancer, but he says the medication has been great. “Really the worst thing is that I wake up each day with curlier hair!”

“Going on the targeted therapy has allowed me to live the life I want to live, it has given me freedom.”

Vision Super-Snowdome Foundation Fellow, Dr Piers Blombery, a clinical and laboratory haematologist and the medical lead of the Molecular Haematology laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, stated that the generous support provided by Vision Super has made a remarkable difference in increasing access to blood cancer genetic testing for patients.

“The partnership between Vision Super and Snowdome has allowed me to create a team of scientists with the expertise to perform the genomic testing like Paul had, explained Dr Blombery. Our team analyses genomic data in blood cancer, develops new assays to detect these mutations and helps guide patients to new specific and personalised medications.” These highly specialised tests are now performed through the Molecular Haematology Laboratory at Peter Mac for hundreds of patients a month throughout Australia, South East Asia, and New Zealand.

Vision Super’s partnership with Snowdome is about supporting and caring for people like Paul, who are the individuals behind the insurance statistics. Vision Super truly is making a difference for Australians with blood cancer.