Transforming Cancer Treatment with Revolutionary CART – Cell Therapy – Story of Emily Whitehead Being Cancer Free

Article Summary

In 2012, Emily Whitehead was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). After two years of unsuccessful chemotherapy and rapidly declining health, Emily became the first pediatric patient in the world to receive CAR T-cell therapy product called tisagenlecleucel or Kymriah and the first patient of any age to receive it for ALL.

In 2017, five years after Emily was treated, the FDA approved this CART-cell therapy -the first CART treatment in the world, as well as the first gene therapy in the US. Since this approval, the FDA has now approved a total of six CAR T-cell therapies, for conditions ranging from diffuse large B cell lymphoma to multiple myeloma.

And, after 10 years in the treatment, Emily today celebrates being cancer-free!

Dr. Grupp, Section Chief of the Cellular Therapy and Transplant Section, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said that not all patients who receive CAR T for relapsed ALL reach the same outcome as Emily. Currently, more than 90% of patients who receive CAR T-cell therapy for relapsed ALL will go into remission; approximately 50% of those patients will remain cancer-free. Although the other 50% eventually relapse, prior to CAR-T only 9% of patients with relapsed ALL remained cancer-free.

Researchers has stated that Emily has defined the entire field of CAR T-cell therapy. Beyond cancer, the principles that led to Emily’s successful treatment – engineering her own cells to fight disease and infusing those cells back in her body are being used in other clinical areas to develop potentially curative therapies.

 (Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 11th May 2022)

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