Doctors are treating leukemia with a sensational new procedure
British doctors have achieved a medical sensation. With the help of genetically modified immune cells, they were able to cure a particularly aggressive form of leukemia in a one-year-old girl. As the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London (GOSH) reports, the child is the first patient worldwide to use the innovative procedure.
Blood cancer is discovered three months after birth
Thanks to an innovative process, doctors at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) were able to save the lives of Layla, who was suffering from cancer. As the clinic reports, this is the first case in the world to use genetically modified immune cells - so-called "UCART 19 cells" - to combat leukemia. “We were overjoyed that it worked. Her leukemia was so aggressive that such a reaction is almost a miracle, ”the girl's attending doctor, Paul Veys, is quoted in the release.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is curable in most cases
Little Layla Richards was born alive and well on June 10, 2014. However, at the age of three months, the doctors discovered a particularly aggressive form of blood cancer, which is known in technical terms as childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The disease primarily affects the blood and bone marrow, but can also affect the lymph nodes, liver and other organs. Just a few years ago, ALL led to the death of the majority of patients, today it is curable, especially in children, in around 80 percent of cases with intensive chemotherapy.
However, the therapy did not work for Layla Richards. Instead, the cancer returned despite chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation, diminishing hope of a cure. The doctors at the GOSH explained to the parents that there were no other treatment options for Layla that could bring about a cure - and therefore suggested palliative care.
T-helper cells from the healthy donor are modified
"We didn't want to accept palliative care, so we asked the doctors to try everything for our daughter, even if they hadn't tried before," said Lisa Richards, according to the GOSH statement. It worked, because the doctors suggested an innovative treatment method to the parents, which was currently being developed at the GOSH. In this, the white blood cells ("T helper cells") of a healthy donor are modified to such an extent that they are equipped against leukemia and can fight cancer.
The procedure only takes a few minutes
“The doctors told us that even if we tried the treatment, there was no guarantee of success. But we prayed it would work, ”said the girl's father, Ashleigh Richards. "It was frightening to think that the treatment had been used on a person before," adds the father. But despite possible risks, there was no doubt. "She was sick and in a lot of pain, so we had to do something."
Finally, the child was given a small injection of the genetically modified cells, which took only a few minutes. A few weeks later, there was good news that the treatment had been successful. Layla's father surprised his wife on the phone when she was picking up the oldest daughter from school. "At first I thought it was bad news, but then he said 'it works!' And I just cried for happiness," reports the child's mother.
Child can be released just a month after the transplant
Around two months later and cancer-free, Layla returned to the GOSH for a second bone marrow transplant to replace the bone marrow that had been attacked by the treatment. From then on, her blood cell count increased and one month after the transplant she was strong enough to be released.
Despite the incredible success, the hospital's cell and gene therapy specialist, Waseem Qasim, warned against being overly optimistic: “We have only used this treatment on one, very strong little girl so far, so we have to be careful to skin it this could be a suitable treatment option for all children. Nevertheless, it is a milestone in the use of new genetic engineering and the effect on this child is breathtaking. ”Accordingly, repeating the success could“ be a big step forward in the treatment of leukemia and other types of cancer, ”emphasized Professor Waseem Qasim. (No)