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Taiwan reports 1st child with cancer cured by CAR T-cell therapy

Source: Taiwan News

A 10-year-old girl suffering from leukemia is the first child in Taiwan to receive CAR T-cell therapy and to have fully recovered from the cancer as a result.

The girl, identified as Tingting (亭亭), was diagnosed with childhood B-cell acute lymphoblastic lymphoma four years ago. After undergoing first-line therapy, she still relapsed.

In the past, such a patient would have to wait for a stem cell transplant to save their lives. However, with the assistance of doctors at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), she became the first CD19-targeted chimeric antigen receptor-engineered (CD19 CAR) T-cell recipient in Taiwan and has fully recovered, with no residual cancer cells detected in her body.

At a press conference held by the university on Thursday (July 14), Chou Hsien-tang (周獻堂), a hematologist oncologist at NTUH, said that Tingting had been diagnosed with the cancer when she was 6 years old, reported ETtoday. After receiving a three-year chemotherapy regimen for high-risk groups, the remaining cancer cells were undetectable for a period of time.

However, the cancer recurred, and even with the use of new standard drugs, the cancer cells could not be removed. After discussion with parents, doctors decided to attempt CART T-cell therapy.

Chou explained that the treatment principle relies on high-tech genetic engineering. First, T-cells are isolated from the patient's body, and are genetically modified by adding a gene for a receptor called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), which enables the T-cells to attach to a specific cancer cell antigen.

The cancer cells from childhood B-cell acute lymphoblastic lymphoma contain an antigen called CD19. Therefore, in this patient's case, the CART T-cell technique was used to design T-cells to attach to the CD19 antigen.

Chou compared it to a precise "immunization army" that can accurately and continuously destroy cancer cells. The advantage is that a one-time injection can generate these results, said Chou, as was the case with Tingting.

In April of this year, NTUH became the first medical center in Taiwan to provide formal clinical use of CD19-targeted CAR T-cell therapy. Tingting was the first patient in Taiwan to receive the treatment and experience a full recovery.

Currently, no cancer cells have been detected in her system, but follow-up examinations will continue to monitor her status. NTUH expressed the hope that it will be able use this therapy in the future to improve the quality of cancer treatment and prevent recurrences.

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