New CAR-T therapy saves baby girl
Take a good, hard look at the beautiful little lady above – she may have just made history. One-year-old Layla Richards was suffering from incurable leukemia (a form of cancer). Her parents were told there were no options left to save their baby. Chemotherapy failed. So did bone-marrow transplants. Finally, doctors tried a new form of experimental therapy – they gave Layla “genetically-altered immune cells” that attack the leukemia cells while leaving all of Layla’s normal cells alone (doctors gave the treatment the unruly name “TALEN gene-edited allogeneic CAR-T therapy“). After two months, Layla was cancer free. She is now back at her home with her parents.
“As this was the first time that the treatment had been used, we didn’t know if or when it would work and so we were over the moon when it did. Her leukemia was so aggressive that such a response is almost a miracle.”
Since this is the first time the treatment has been used, doctors are cautious about calling it a “cure”. If they can do it again with another patient, it could represent a huge step forward in treating leukemia and other cancers.
What is CAR-T therapy?
Layla Richards became the first person in the world to get the “off-the-shelf” cell therapy developed by French biotech firm Cellectis at Britain’s Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2015. CAR-T therapy is a type of immunotherapy that involves using the patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. Specifically, it stands for Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy, which is a groundbreaking and innovative approach to cancer treatment.
The process of CAR-T therapy involves extracting T-cells from the patient’s blood and genetically modifying them in a laboratory to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. These CARs are designed to recognize and bind to specific proteins in cancer cells.
Once the T-cells have been modified with the CARs, they are multiplied in the lab and infused back into the patient’s bloodstream. Once infused, the CAR-T cells can identify and attack cancer cells that express the targeted protein, leading to the destruction of cancer cells and potentially the eradication of cancer.
Despite its potential benefits, CAR-T therapy is not without risks and potential side effects. Some of the common side effects of CAR-T therapy include fever, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. In rare cases, more serious side effects such as neurological problems and cytokine release syndrome (CRS) may occur.