LONDON (Web Desk) – A one-year-old girl is the first person in the world to receive a ‘designer’ immune therapy which cured her of ‘incurable’ leukaemia.
Layla Richards received the ground-breaking treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in central London, after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), aged only 14 weeks.
Layla went through extensive chemotherapy treatment but the cancer proved persistent and doctors advised her parents to consider palliative care options, Metro reported.
Her father, Ashleigh Richards, 30, a driver, said: “It was scary to think that the treatment had never been used in a human before but, even with the risks, there was no doubt that we wanted to try the treatment. She was sick and in lots of pain so we had to do something.”
This new treatment involves using ‘molecular scissors’ to edit genes and create designer immune cells programmed to hunt out and kill drug-resistant leukaemia.
Layla was given a small 1ml infusion of genetically-engineered cells, known as UCART19 cells. Within one to two weeks, doctors expected to see immune response – usually in the form of a rash or a fever.
She developed neither over a two-week period, however, just as doctors were preparing to send her home – Layla developed a rash but otherwise seemed well.
Mr Richards said: “Even though she is well at the moment, we still don’t know what the future holds.
“She will still have monthly bone marrow checks for now and might be on some medicines for the rest of her life.”
Professor Paul Veys, director of bone marrow transplant at GOSH and Layla’s head doctor, said: “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 leukaemia was so aggressive that such a response is almost a miracle.”
Doctors at GOSH have warned that while this is a great step forward, this may not be suitable treatment for all children – describing Lalya as ‘one very strong little girl’.