London: Girl with incurable cancer recovers after pioneering treatment
A girl’s incurable cancer has been cleared from her body after what scientists have described as the most sophisticated cell engineering to date.
Alyssa, whose family do not wish to give their surname, was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May 2021.
After a round of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant failed to rid the 13-year-old of the disease, doctors told her parents there was nothing more they can do.
Her only next step would have been palliative care, but instead, Alyssa decided to undergo an experimental new treatment.
Scientists at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London gave her pre-manufactured cells edited using new technology to allow them to hunt down and destroy cancerous T-cells without attacking each other.
T-cells are a type of white blood cell which move around the body to find and kill defective cells.
This is the world’s first such treatment, and Alyssa’s recovery will give hope to tens of thousands of patients.
The girl said she felt that taking the experimental treatment for the disease would help others, adding ‘of course I’m going to do it’.
Less than a month after being given the treatment, she was in remission, and was able to have a second bone marrow transplant.
She is said to be ‘doing well at home’ as she recovers and continues with follow-up monitoring.
He mum, Kiona, said the family were ‘on a strange cloud nine’, adding that it was ‘amazing to be home’.
She added: ‘Hopefully, this can prove the research works and they can offer it to more children – all of this needs to have been for something.’
Scientists now aim to recruit up to 10 patients who have T-cell leukaemia, just like Alyssa, and have exhausted all conventional options for the clinical trial into the new treatment.
They hope that if it is successful it can be offered to children earlier, when they are less sick, and that it can be used for other types of leukaemia in future.
Potential patients for trials will be referred by NHS specialists.
Professor Waseem Qasim, consultant immunologist at GOSH, said: ‘This is a great demonstration of how, with expert teams and infrastructure, we can link cutting-edge technologies in the lab with real results in the hospital for patients.
‘It’s our most sophisticated cell engineering so far and paves the way for other new treatments and ultimately better futures for sick children.
‘We have a unique and special environment here at GOSH that allows us to rapidly scale up new technologies and we’re looking forward to continuing our research and bringing it to the patients who need it most.’
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