By Brian Litterer

Contributing Writer

When Layla Richard was a 14-week-old child, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Doctors confirmed the worst fears of Layla’s parents when they told them that there were simply no viable treatment options for their daughter.

Layla is now cancer free after receiving a highly experimental cell therapy treatment that had not even been tested on humans yet.

“The development is significant because it indicates that cell therapies, which represent an exciting new front in the battle against cancer, might not have to be customized for each patient, saving time and money,” said Andrew Pollack, New York Times reporter.

Although this therapy will require much more testing and monitoring, doctors are still excited about the possibilities that this advancement has to offer patients.

“The treatment, which involves using tiny molecular ‘scissors’ to edit genes and make immune cells especially capable of hunting out and destroying cancer, represents a promising new front in the fight against cancer,” said Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post reporter.

This therapy was created by researchers at University College London’s Institute of Children’s Health, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Cellectis, a biotechnology company, according to Kaplan.

“Instead of relying on the patient’s weakened immune cells, the researchers developed a bank of pre-engineered, one-size-fits-all T-cells from healthy donors,” Kaplan continued.

“Using a genomeediting tool called TALEN, they cut the T-cells to render them impervious to leukemia drugs, which would ordinarily kill them, and paste in new programming that directs them to hunt down and fight against cancer.”

The editing done with TALEN also stops the donor cells from damaging the patient’s own naturally occurring cells, which is a large concern when introducing foreign cells to a patient’s body.

“The process consisted of 1ml of UCART19 cells delivered via intravenous line,” said Ali Venosa, Medical Daily journalist.

“After a few weeks, there were signs that the treatment was beginning to work.”

Layla’s case will be presented at the American Society of Hematology next month in Orlando, Florida.

“After getting the cells around the time of her first birthday in June, Layla went into remission, with no trace of leukemia found in her blood or bone marrow,” said Andrew Pollack, New York Times reporter.

“She later had a second bone marrow transplant to help her immune system recover and is now at home.”

Though this experimental therapy seems to have worked well for Layla, doctors will keep an eye on her health, as she has only been in remission for a few months.

This therapy will require extensive testing before it can be approved for the general public.

Email Brian at: blitterer@live.esu.edu

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