by McIntosh | January 28, 2017 4:33 am
Two babies who were diagnosed with terminal leukemia, have since been cured and doctors are claiming it is all by a revolutionary technique.
Layla Richards, 16 months, and an unknown 11 month-old, were administered with genetically engineered immune cells at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. The immune cells were configured to attack cancer cells after previous efforts to treat the infants using more conventional methods had failed.
A year after the injections, doctors have described the children’s results to the treatment as ‘almost a miracle’ and ‘staggering’ – heralding it as the world’s first successful treatment of cancer. The experiment increases the outlook of off-the-shelf cellular therapy using donor cells at an affordable rate that could be dripped straight into a patient’s veins at anytime.
Treatments using engineered T-cells, also known as CAR-T, are fairly brand-new, revolutionary and are not for sale as of yet. But they have shown to work miracles when dealing with blood cancers.
The cases received far-flung media attention along with a healthy dose of criticism. Because both babies also received chemotherapy, professionals say that researchers cannot be certain that CAR-T was what cured them.
Stephan Grupp, director of cancer immunotherapy at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, shared what he thought with Technology Review:
‘There is a hint of efficacy, but no proof. It would be great if it works, but that just hasn’t been shown yet.’
But on the other hand, Professor Waseem Qasim, a physician and gene-therapy expert who led the tests, reported that both children remain in remission – one 18 months and the other a year after treatment.
Layla’s mother, Lisa Foley, explained how the decision to help her daughter came about:
‘We didn’t want to accept palliative [end-of-life] care and so we asked the doctors to try anything for our daughter, even if it hadn’t been tried before. I consider ourselves lucky that we were in the right place at the right time to get a vial of these cells. Hopefully Layla will stay well and lots more children can be helped with this new treatment.’
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