An 11-year-old Indian-origin boy has become the first patient to receive a pioneering new cancer therapy by the NHS and is recovering in a children’s hospital in London.
Yuvan Thakkar suffers from relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and received the ground-breaking treatment known as Kymriah – a type of immunotherapy called CAR-T therapy, which modifies a patient’s immune system cells, known as T cells, to attack the cancer cells.
The young cricket fan is recovering at Great Ormond Street Hospital this week, with some time to go before the results are fully known.
“I really hope I get better soon so I can visit Lego House in Denmark. I love Lego and am building a big model Bugatti while I’m in hospital,” said Yuvan in a statement released by the hospital.
The treatment has been tested in clinical trials in the US where it has been shown that approximately 50-62 per cent of patients survive without leukaemia for 12 months or more.
Yuvan was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2014 and relapsed after standard treatments and underwent a bone marrow transplant last year. But in October 2018, he relapsed again.
“When Yuvan was diagnosed it was the most heart-breaking news we had ever received. We tried to stay hopeful as they say leukaemia in children has 90 per cent cure rate, but sadly, his illness relapsed,” said his parents Sapna and Vinay Thakkar.
“This new therapy is our last hope. It means a rebirth to us if this treatment works and we hope it really does. We are so glad that we at least have this new option now,” they said.
Previously, CAR-T therapy was only available to patients as part of research trials. Now, following a deal between NHS England and the manufacturer, the therapy is being offered to eligible NHS patients with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
ALL affects around 600 people per year, most of whom are children. Although treatments have improved steadily, approximately 10 per cent patients still relapse.
The hospital said that research has shown the treatments are effective for patients with particularly aggressive cancers after standard treatments have failed.
“We are so pleased to be able to offer patients like Yuvan another chance to be cured. While it will be a while before the outcome of this powerful new therapy is known, the treatment has shown very promising results in clinical trials and we are hopeful that it will help,” said Sara Ghorashian, Consultant in Paediatric Haematology at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) – one of the U’’s leading children’s hospitals.
“GOSH are proud to be one of the first UK sites that will offer CAR-T treatment on the NHS, which recognises the hospital’s world-leading expertise in delivering these innovative therapies to patients as part of clinical trials,” said Matthew Shaw, Chief Executive of GOSH.
In November last year, it was announced that GOSH, along with two other UK hospitals would be the first to offer this treatment to the NHS patients.
Back in November when Yuvan’s treatment began, doctors at GOSH collected T-cells, a type of immune cell from his blood.
After undergoing a complex laboratory procedure that enabled the T-cells to recognise and kill cancer cells, the T-cells were returned to Yuvan last week.
The availability of the treatment at GOSH follows the success of the CAR-T therapy research programme at the hospital and its partner – the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (ICH) – which is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) GOSH Biomedical Research Centre, GOSH Children’s Charity and other funders.
Researchers at GOSH are currently exploring the use of “next generation” CAR-T cells to further reduce the chance of relapse.