In a medical miracle, two babies at London’s Great Osmond Street Hospital have seemed to be cured of Leukemia.
Being called as a feat in the world of cancer therapy and indeed a first of its kind in the world, genetically engineered immune cells were used to cure blood cancer in two infants aged 11 months and 16 months.
Unlike the earlier attempts, the cells used to treat these children were derived from a donor, and not from the babies itself.
The derived T cells called CAR-T are taken from a donor’s blood and genetically manipulated to better kill the cancer cells. This is a different approach than the conventional therapy where T-cells from the patient are extracted, genetically engineered and then put back in the patient. However, these treatments are still in clinical trials and not available to the public upon requests.
The T-cells from the donor are stored way ahead of time, thus significantly reducing the amount of time spent in finding the right donor and extracting the immune cells for the treatment. Also, the blood from a single donor can be used to prepare hundreds of cancer treatment doses, hence reducing the treatment costs.
Julianne Smith, VP of CAR-T development for Cellectis revealed the cost of the treatment. She said:
We estimate the cost to manufacture a dose would be about $4,000. That’s compared to a cost of around $50,000 to alter a patient’s cells and return them.
The two babies were earlier unresponsive to the other treatments. However, in addition to the above-mentioned treatment, they were provided with chemotherapy as well. It is still unclear as to which treatment was truly responsible for the recoveries.
If indeed, genetically engineered immune cells are the answer to treating cancer, then this could be a Eureka moment for medical scientists around the world.