An experimental new therapy that uses a custom-built version of an individual’s own specialist immune cells has been used to successfully treat a seven-year-old girl suffering from an aggressive form of childhood leukemia. After the treatment with her own re-engineered immune cells her doctors could find no evidence of cancer.
The treatment was carried out at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) by a team of doctors headed by Pediatric Oncologist Stephan A. Grupp. They chose Emily Whiteheadas the first child patient on a clinical trial called CTL019, which is testing T cell therapy to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. Emily had previously received standard chemotherapy but had relapsed twice. As part of the new therapy she received a specially engineered version of her own T cells, which multiplied rapidly and destroyed the leukemia cells.
This treatment had not been tested previously in children or for this type of leukemia. Although only 12 patients have been treated to date the initial results are considered to be extremely promising.
The updated trial results were presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), which took place in Atlanta from 8 to 11 December.