Yuvan, 11, with his parents, Vinay and Sapna

An 11-year-old became the first NHS patient to receive therapy using the body's own cells to fight cancer.

Yuvan Thakkar, who is suffering from a form of leukemia, received personalized treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London after the failure of conventional cancer treatments.

CAR-T consists of eliminating immune cells and modifying them in the laboratory so that they can recognize the cancer cells.

Previously, it was only available as part of a clinical research trial.

The CAR-T treatment, called Kymriah, costs £ 282,000 per patient, but the NHS has negotiated an undisclosed lower price with the manufacturer, Novartis.

And the money will come from
Cancer Fund
, set up to accelerate access to the most promising treatments.

Kymriah is authorized to treat patients younger than 25 years of age with acute B cell lymphoblastic leukemia, for whom other treatments have failed.


Kymriah is a personalized immunotherapy against cancer

NHS England announced in September that it would fund treatment within 10 days of a European license.

Yuvan, of Watford, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. He received chemotherapy, then a bone marrow transplant, but recurred after both treatments.

& # 39; Latest hope & # 39;

Yuvan's parents, Sapna and Vinay, said, "When Yuvan was diagnosed, it was the most heartbreaking news we ever received.

"We tried to keep hope because they say that leukemia in children has a cure rate of 90%, but unfortunately, his disease has relapsed.

"This new therapy is our last hope."

Yuvan said: "I really hope I'm getting better soon to visit Lego House in Denmark.

"I love Lego and I build a big Bugatti model while I'm in the hospital."


Yuvan spends time at the hospital manufacturing Lego models

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia affects about 600 people a year, mostly children. Most are cured by conventional treatments but about 10% relapse.

In November, it was announced that GOSH, along with the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital and the NHS Foundation Trust of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospital, would treat children with this rare form of leukemia.

Up to 30 patients a year should be treated.

CAR-T is a truly personalized form of cancer treatment.

First, the patient's blood is removed and the white blood cells are separated, the rest of the blood being returned to the patient.

T cells, a particular type of immune cell, are then sent to a lab in the United States, where a harmless virus is used to insert genes.

These genes cause T cells to add a hook on their surface, called the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR).

These artificial CAR-T cells – programmed to recognize and destroy the cancer cells of the patient – are multiplied in large numbers and then reinjected into the patient.

Possible side effects

Tuvan's immune cells were removed in November and the modified T cells were perfused last week.

Dr. Sara Ghorashian, a pediatric hematology consultant at GOSH and a doctor at Yuvan, said, "We are very excited to be able to offer patients like Yuvan a new chance of healing.

"Although the results of this powerful new treatment are only known for a while, the results of the treatment have been very promising in clinical trials and we hope this will help."

The Royal Manchester Children's Hospital also began treating its first patient with Kymriah's personalized immunotherapy.

The 11-year-old Liverpool native is expected to see her modified CAR-T cells infuse in a few weeks.

In one
clinical test
of 75 patients for whom all other treatments had failed, half were still in complete remission after one year.

However, some serious side effects have been observed, with some patients requiring intensive care due to
cytokine release syndrome

This can cause fever, low blood pressure and breathing difficulties, but can be treated in most patients.

CAR-T for adults

NHS England has also agreed to fund another CAR-T treatment for adults with lymphoma.

The treatment, Yescarta, would have cost nearly £ 300,000 per patient, but Gilead Sciences has accepted a lower price.

Up to 200 patients a year will be eligible.

Follow Fergus on