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Multiple myeloma patient Geoff Nyssen begins CART T cell treatment in the US

A Melbourne father told he may not make it to Christmas is undergoing a potentially life-changing new cancer therapy in the US — thanks to $1 million of Australian government funding.

Father-of-two Geoff Nyssen, 49, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, in 2014 and told he would likely live for only 10 years.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Australian father receives life-saving treatment in America.

Watch the latest news and stream for free on 7plus >>

With the only treatment readily available in Australia having been largely unsuccessful for him, Nyssen set his sights on a new therapy available only overseas.

Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy, or CAR T-cell therapy, is a form of immunotherapy which works by altering the immune system’s T-cells, helping the body attack cancer.

The therapy has been approved in Australia to treat some forms of leukaemia and lymphoma.

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But it can be accessed for myeloma only through clinical trials.

Nyssen’s rare form of multiple myeloma excludes him from these trials.

After repeated applications to the federal government to fund his CAR T cell treatment overseas, Nyssen was finally approved in August.

He left for the United States in November.

The treatment will cost the Australian government about $1 million.

For the past six weeks, he has been undergoing treatment at the Fred Hutch Cancer Centre in Seattle, documenting his journey on social media.

Nyssen told 7NEWS being so far away from his family, especially at Christmas, has been difficult.

Geoff Nyssen is now undergoing CART T-cell treatment in Seattle. Credit: 7NEWS

“It’s (my) first Christmas away from my kids, you know they’re only 15 and 18, so that’s hard,” he said.

Nyssen’s doctor Professor Miles Prince said the Melbourne father had a 97 per cent chance of responding to the treatment.

“(Geoff’s) got an extremely good chance of the disease remaining in remission for at least three to five years and some patients are potentially cured,” Prince said.

“Chemotherapy is becoming a fossil fuel and all of these new immunotherapy drugs are the renewables of the future.”

How does CAR T-cell therapy work?

The body’s immune system is made up of many cells, one of which is the T cell.

T cells are a type of white blood cell and play an important role — to find and destroy abnormal cells such as cancer cells.

However, occasionally, T cells may fail to recognise or properly destroy these abnormal cells.

Geoff Nyssen has been suffering from multiple myeloma for 10 years. Credit: 7NEWS

CAR T-cell therapy works by altering a person’s T cells to better recognise and attack cancer cells.

A small amount of T cells are taken from a person, altered, and then transferred back into the blood stream where they will multiply.

The reprogrammed cells will then search for the cancer cells in the body that they have been designed to destroy.

Nyssen begins this final stage next month, when his modified cells are returned to hopefully kill the myeloma cancer cells in his body.

He is still campaigning for CART T-cell therapy for myeloma to be made accessible to more Australians.

“We need to save lives, myeloma patients’ lives, so that people like me can live better,” Nyssen said.

“So that I can see my daughter get married, so that I can see my son into his later years.”

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