‘Incurable’ leukaemia patients are declared ‘cancer FREE thanks to new treatment’

Source: The Sun

Fourteen people with ‘incurable’ acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) were left with no trace of the disease after pioneering therapy at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The treatment – a faster acting version of CAR-T therapy – harnesses the power of the body’s immune system to fight the cancer cells.

It works by taking blood cells from the patient, before genetically modifying them in the lab – making them better at finding and destroying cancer cells.

The cells are then returned to the patient’s bloodstream where they’re able to fight the disease.

Medics at GOSH said after just three months 12 of the patients – who were mostly kids – were found to have no trace of cancer cells.

And five of them remain completely cancer free to this day.

Professor Persis Amrolia, the study’s chief investigator, said: “CAR-T therapy is a fantastic example of using the power of the immune system to specifically target cancer cells.

“While it doesn’t work for everyone, it can offer hope for those children who have run out of all other options.

“We’re just at the beginning of this new treatment and over the next few years, I hope we can refine it further to make it safer and more effective.

“The side-effects of CAR-T therapies can be severe, so we hope that this new technology can reduce the risk for patients.”

CAR-T therapy is normally limited to children and adults up to the age of 25 and it can cause serious neurological side effects such as decreased consciousness, delirium, confusion, agitation and seizures.

Austin Sweeney, 10, was diagnosed with ALL when he was two and was invited to take part in the trial after he had exhausted all other treatment options.

And his dad, Scott Sweeney, says the youngster was “so fortunate” to have been able to participate in the trial.

He said: “He had the cells at Great Ormond Street Hospital in October 2016 and we found out on his birthday at the end of that month that the cells were doing exactly what we needed them to do.

“Two-and-a-half years later, Austin is doing so well. He is more physical than he has ever been. It is lovely to see him full of energy.”

According to Great Ormond Street, ALL affects around 400 children in the UK each year, and while most patients can be cured with standard treatments including chemotherapy and transplant, some relapse.

Survival for children suffering from ALL increased from under 10 per cent in the 1960s to 90 per cent in 2015, though the survival rate is lower for babies.

The hospital said the research, which was published in the Nature Medicine journal on Monday, offers great hope to those with relapsed ALL, which is the most common cause of child cancer death in the UK.

What is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia?

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a type of blood cancer that starts from young white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow.Adults and children can get it but it is most often diagnosed in younger people.It’s very rare, with around 650 people diagnosed with the condition each year in the UK.Many symptoms of ALL are vague and non specific. It may feel like the flu as symptoms are caused by too many abnormal white blood cells and not enough normal white cells, red cells and platelets.Symptoms can include:

Fatigue
Fever
Bruising or bleeding easily
Frequent infections
General weakness
Weight loss
Joint pain
Breathlessness
Pale skin
Swollen glands

It is a genetic change in the stem cells that causes immature white blood cells to be released into the bloodstream.However, it’s not clear what causes the DNA mutation to occur.The main treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is chemotherapy, and usually steroids as well.Treatment with a targeted cancer drug might also be used as well. Some people will need a stem cell transplant.The outlook for adults with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia isn’t as promising as in children.Around 40 per cent of people aged between 25 and 64 will live for five years or more after receiving their diagnosis.In those aged 65 or over, around 15 per cent will live for five years or more after being diagnosed.Source: Cancer Research UK