Patients with TERMINAL blood cancer were offered fresh hope after a new revolutionary drug was found to kill cancer cells.
Doctors at King's College London claim that the new treatment has been able to cure cancers completely in a "never seen before" way.
One patient who has benefited from the pioneering treatment is Mike Simpson.
He was diagnosed with an aggressive blood cancer after he returned home vacationing with a hard and swollen neck.
Despite two exhaustive chemotherapy attacks, the cancer has returned.
And by the end of last year, he was told that he had little time to spare.
But then he was offered this new "live" therapy, known as CAR-T therapy.
It started in February and scans have turned out to be working; He told the BBC that his cancer was "running away."
What is CAR-T?
It is a highly personalized drug that is made for every patient using their own body cells.
White blood cells called T cells are removed from the patient's blood before being frozen in liquid nitrogen and sent to laboratories in the USA.
There, they are genetically reprogrammed so that, instead of killing bacteria and viruses, they now seek out and kill the cancer.
Then they are sent back to the UK to be infused into the patient's bloodstream where they will hopefully continue to grow and work within the patient.
The whole process takes a month.
Because it is very new, there is not enough data to say with certainty how effective the new therapy is, but clinical trials have shown incredible results.
40 percent of patients had all signs of their terminal lymphomas removed from their body only 15 months after treatment.
Why effective only for cancers in the blood?
It is shown to be the most promising in dealing with cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia because there are fewer "collateral damage".
CAR-T cells target proteins that protrude from the surface of cancer cells.
Cancer cells have a type of protein attached to them – but healthy cells as well.
Therefore, CAR-T therapy currently targets these proteins, whether they are healthy or not.
It's okay if it's a blood cancer you're dealing with, but if you have lung cancer, for example, you can not kill parts of the lung without killing / seriously impacting the patient's health.
Symptoms of leukemia and lymphoma
There are no specific signs or symptoms that would allow a physician to make a diagnosis without laboratory testing.
In all types of leukemia, the symptoms are more commonly caused by the lack of normal blood cells than by the presence of abnormal white cells.
Because the bone marrow is filled with leukemia cells, it is unable to produce the large number of normal blood cells the body needs.
This can lead to:
- Weakness and tiredness
- Most frequent infections
- Bleeding and bruising
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can cause many different signs and symptoms depending on the type of lymphoma and where it is found in the body.
Some common signs and symptoms include:
- Increased lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Fatigue (feeling very tired)
- Swollen abdomen (belly)
- Feeling full after only a small amount of food
- Chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath or cough
- Serious or frequent infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
However, the side effects are worse than chemo.
Short-term effects may include confusion, difficulty in talking about fatigue, and loss of consciousness.
Pricy – but it's worth it
Because it is so personalized, CAR-T therapy is incredibly expensive.
Each patient costs more than £ 280,000.
But the NHS has reached an agreement with pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, so the hope is that other patients like Mike will soon be able to access it.
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"It's a very exciting new development and gives a lot of hope to many of our patients," Victoria Potter, a consultant in hematology at King's College Hospital, told the BBC.
She added, "It's amazing to be able to see these people whom you may not have been able to hope for, really achieve remission.
"And this is a situation we've never seen before and it's an incredibly impressive change in the treatment paradigm."
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