A one-year-old cancer patient is in remission from leukemia after receiving a cutting-edge gene-editing therapy.
The patient, named Layla, received modified immune cells from a donor, Nature reports, the second-ever trial of the gene-editing therapy and the first for cancer. All other treatments for Layla failed, leading her doctors to obtain special dispensation to try the largely untested procedure. Several months afterwards, her doctors say she is doing very well.
The therapy works by taking immune cells, called T-cells, from a healthy donor and modifying the genes by exposing them to a particular enzyme. This step allows the foreign T-cells to be changed in a way that the patient’s immune system won’t attack them once they’re injected into the patient. The gene modification also protects the cells from cancer-fighting drugs the patient takes. The immune system of the patient is then destroyed, Nature reports, and replaced with the new cells.
The procedure isn’t intended to be a permanent cure, says immunologist Waseem Qasim of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust in London. Rather, the hope is that it keeps the patient healthy temporarily until a T-cell donor is found.