First children with cancer start treatment with CAR-T therapy

The first children to receive a game-changing personalised therapy for cancer will start treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London this week.

A second centre, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, is also ready to start treating children with a rare form of leukaemia while a third, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is expected to join the programme next month.

CAR-T is a highly complex new type of immunotherapy which involves collecting and using the patients’ own immune cells to target their cancer in a process which is completed over a number of weeks.

The start of this treatment marks the beginning of a new era of personalised medicine, and forms part of the upgrade in cancer services which will be set out shortly NHS’s long term plan.

In September, NHS England struck the first full access deal in Europe on tisagenlecleucel, which can potentially cure some children with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) where other treatments have failed, enabling NICE to recommend the treatment for entry into the reformed NHS Cancer Drugs Fund last week.

The landmark deal with Novartis came less than 10 days after the treatment was granted its European marketing licence and represents one of the fastest funding approvals in the 70 year history of the NHS.