Children begin pioneering therapy for aggressive blood cancer

CAR-T therapy has the potential to cure a specific form of leukaemia in young people

CAR-T therapy has the potential to cure a specific form of leukaemia in young people

Children have started a groundbreaking personalised cancer therapy this week that has the potential to cure an aggressive form of leukaemia where other treatments have failed.

Young people in England are set to benefit from a revolutionary new cancer treatment. Picture: SPL

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) is a revolutionary and complex type of immunotherapy which collects and uses the patients’ own immune cells to target their cancer in a process which is completed over a number of weeks.

The tisagenlecleucel form of CAR-T, also known as Kymriah®, costs almost £300,000 per patient at its full list price and is licensed to treat people up to the age of 25 who have B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia that is refractory, has relapsed post-transplant or is in a second or later relapse. 

 The first children to receive the therapy will be at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), London. Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital is ready to start the treatment and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is expected to join the treatment programme next month. NHS England expects to treat 15-30 patients a year.

'Immense promise'

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has already recommended that the treatment is included in the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund, a source of funding for cancer drugs in England.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘CAR-T shows immense promise, and the NHS is now leading from the front by ensuring patients in England are among the first in the world to benefit. As we develop our long-term plan for cancer services, this is one of the first in what is expected to be a growing number of personalised treatments available for NHS patients.’

GOSH chief executive Peter Steer welcomed the pioneering treatment and said: ‘We aim to help every child we see fulfil their potential; offering CAR-T therapy does exactly that.’

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