Immunotherapy Trial Offers Patients Hope

We are proud to share promising news from a ground-breaking immunotherapy clinical trial supported by the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

The CAR T Cell Immunotherapy Trial – an Australian first for children – uses a patient’s own genetically engineered immune cells to attack cancer cells. This innovative treatment, previously only available in the US, offers new hope to children with relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).

The trial was offered to children around Australia, with candidates required to meet strict eligibility criteria.  

Lauren Krelsham from Adelaide, now 21, was diagnosed with ALL at age 7. She endured a bone-marrow transplant, extensive chemotherapy and an experimental immunotherapy drug. Lauren joined the trial at The Royal Children’s Hospital in late 2015 following four relapses of ALL, Lauren was told that palliative care was her only option. As part of the clinical trial treatment, Lauren's T cells were harvested and sent to the US to be genetically engineered to recognise a molecule on the surface of cancer cells. On return to Melbourne they were reinfused to target and destroy her leukaemia cells.

Lauren has been in complete remission now for over five months since CAR T cell therapy and is being monitored regularly by the team at The Royal Children’s Hospital.

The Foundation funded an Immunotherapy Research Nurse to develop expertise in the implementation of complex targeted immunotherapies and ensure the critical trial could open in 2015. The clinical trial is closed to recruitment but has provided evidence to justify further research and a phase 3 ALL immunotherapy clinical trial is planned for next year, opening up more options for children with cancer.

In acknowledging the Foundation’s contribution Dr Françoise Méchinaud, Director of the Children’s Cancer Centre at The Royal Children’s Hospital said, “without the staff associated with this funding the running of this innovative clinical trial would not have been possible.”

“The Foundation is committed to providing funding for clinical trials so that more children can access new and exciting treatments,” said Aileen Boyd-Squires, Chief Executive of the Children’s Cancer Foundation.