A patient at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) has become the first in the Midlands to have a successful CAR-T cell therapy, for treatment of her cancer.
Sophie Wheldon, aged 21, was diagnosed with leukaemia in June 2018. She went on to receive an unrelated donor stem cell transplant in November but the disease returned earlier this year. Sophie was infused with CAR-T cells in June this year, and is now in complete remission.
CAR-T works by modifying the body’s immune cells in a laboratory and training them to recognise and attack cancer cells.
The genetically engineered CAR-T cells are then multiplied and infused back into the patient, with successful treatments resulting in the cancer being completely destroyed.
“It’s been a long journey but I’m so happy that the CAR-T treatment has worked,” said Sophie.
“I’d actually studied cell therapies like CAR-T on my biology course at university, so it was bizarre to actually become the first person in the Midlands to receive the infusion.
“I can’t thank Dr Chaganti and the team at the Centre for Clinical Haematology enough, as it’s thanks to them that I’m still here and have been able to return to university.”
Dr Sridhar Chaganti and Dr Ram Malladi, both consultant haematologists, are leading on the CAR-T cell therapy programme at QEHB. Most CAR-T patients are treated through NHS England funding, but there are also commercial trials taking place at QEHB.
“I’m delighted that Sophie has become our first patient successfully treated with CAR-T,” said Dr Chaganti.
“CAR-T therapy is a personalised treatment, with the body’s own cells being used to treat and kill the cancer. I’m hoping many more of our patients have successful outcomes in the future”.
“Advanced cell therapies are set to revolutionise cancer treatment in the years to come. With further research and trials, these treatments are likely to become safer and more effective leading to cures for cancers previously considered terminal.”
QEHB, which is part of BHP founder member University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, is one of a handful of Trusts across the UK – and the only Trust in the Midlands – delivering CAR-T treatments.