image credit: Great Ormond Street
A one-year old child with irreversible aggressive leukaemia has made significant progress after doctors used a pioneering genetic therapy, according to BBC News. The doctors were able to reverse Layla Richards’ cancer using “designer immune cells”. They have hailed her improvement as “almost a miracle.”
Although she has not yet been fully cured of the disease, her progress marks a significant step in this field of cancer research. Due to her young age, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant failed to cure her, but her parents took a risk by opting for the experimental treatment.
Layla’s father, Ashleigh, told BBC News: “I didn't want to go down that road (palliative care), I'd rather that she tried something new and I took the gamble.
"And this is her today standing laughing and giggling, she was so weak before this treatment, it was horrible and I'm just thankful for this opportunity."
The radical therapy had only previously been trialled in mice. Using designer immune cells and gene editing, they were able to seek out and eliminate only leukaemia cells within her body. Mere months after being diagnosed with incurable cancer, Layla remains alive and well, without a trace of leukaemia in her body.
Prof Waseem Qasim, from Great Ormond Street where Layla’s treatment took place, commented: “This is the first time human cells, engineered in this particular way, have been given back to a patient and that was a big step for us.
"The technology is moving very fast, the ability to target very specific regions of the genome have suddenly become much more efficient and we think that this technology will be the next phase of treatments.
"The technology itself has got enormous potential to correct other conditions where cells are engineered and given back to patients or to provide new properties to cells that allow them to be used in a way we can only imagine at the moment."