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Cumbria woman is first patient treated using CAR-T cell therapy

Carol Livesey

A Cumbrian woman has become the first patient to be treated using revolutionary CAR-T at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.

Carol Livesey, who is from Wetheral, has received the ‘personalised’ treatment which has been available to appropriate and eligible patients following an NHS England announcement last year.

CAR-T involves removing immune cells and modifying them in a laboratory so they can recognise cancer cells.

Immune cells, called T-cells, are taken from a sample of the patient’s blood and reprogrammed in the lab to create ones that are genetically coded to recognise and destroy the patient’s cancer cells. This ’living therapy’ is then given to the patient.

Carol, 61, was diagnosed with lymphoma in March 2018 but after both chemotherapy and radiotherapy failed, was referred for CAR-T.

Carol, who now lives in Chorley, Lancashire, said: “I am very excited to be put forward for such a groundbreaking treatment as the CAR T cell therapy but also a little anxious as with all procedures it comes with risks but I am in safe hands at The Christie with a great team to care for me.

“My daughter has done so much to help me this year and my son and his wife live in France .I love them all so much and this treatment will give me the opportunity to be with them for longer.”

The CAR-T treatment Carol received involved several steps over a number of weeks.

First Carol’s blood was taken and sent off to the Novartis laboratory in the United States of America, where her blood was ‘trained’ to fight the cancer cells.

The CAR-T blood was then transported back to the hospital and Carol was administered with the CAR-T to treat their condition. When these CAR-T cells are given back to the patient as an infusion, the new receptors enable them to recognise specific proteins in the cancer cells and kill them.

Whilst highly complex it is used to treat patients with advanced cancers but also comes with a number of risk factors.

Consultant Haematologist Adrian Bloor, who is leading Carol’s care, said: “CAR-T therapy offers the potential to transform treatment for patients with aggressive lymphoma who have not responded to conventional chemotherapy. Prognosis with standard treatment is very poor but emerging data suggests that CAR-T treatment can lead to durable remissions in a significant proportion of patients.”

Mari Scheiffele, General Manager, Novartis Oncology UK & Ireland, said: “Novartis is a pioneer of CAR-T – a truly individualised form of cancer therapy with the potential to save lives.

“The ability to deliver this highly innovative treatment to patients has required a level of collaboration like never before between the teams at The Christie and Novartis. We are proud of the partnership we have formed and very much hope it will lead to positive outcomes for many patients.”

CAR-T therapy is designed to be a one-off treatment for people with advanced or progressing blood cancers, who have limited treatment options open to them. It’s suitable for people with certain types of blood cancer who initially responded to treatment, but then relapsed (the cancer returned). It can also help those whose blood cancer is not responding to treatment (refractory or resistant disease).

After treatment the patient is closely monitored with regular tests and check-ups for approximately two to three months to monitor their response, overall condition and watch for side effects.

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.

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