Innovative cancer treatment offers hope against incurable leukaemia

September 4, 2019

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), an incurable form of leukaemia, is the most common cause of child cancer death in the UK. Survival for children suffering from ALL increased from under 10% in the 1960s to 90% in 2015, but still the survival rate is low for infants. Patients now stand a better chance against the disease as a recent treatment tested at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London has shown remarkable results.

The trial at GOSH sought to reduce the side-effects of treatment for the patients, most of whom are children. The patients were treated with a faster-acting version of CAR-T therapy, where their own immune cells are genetically modified and then used against the malignant cells. About 14 patients with an incurable strain of ALL were given the new therapy during the trial – 12 saw the disease cleared after three months and five of those patients remain leukaemia-free.

According to GOSH, ALL affects around 400 children in the UK each year and although most patients can be cured with standard treatments, such as chemotherapy and transplant, some relapse.

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 and can offer hope for sick children who have run out of all other options. We hope to refine the treatment further to make it safer and more effective.”


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