Immunotherapy trial offers patients hope

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) innovative possibilities 

In an exciting development, we share the promising news from a ground-breaking immunotherapy clinical trial supported by the Children’s Cancer Foundation. 

This innovative treatment, previously only available in the US, offers new hope to children with relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). 

How does it work? 

The CAR T Cell Immunotherapy Trial – an Australian first for children – uses a patient’s own genetically engineered immune cells to attack cancer cells. The trial was offered to children around Australia, with candidates required to meet strict eligibility criteria.

Lauren Krelsham, a patient from Adelaide’s account 

Lauren, aged 21 in 2016, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at age seven. She endured a bone-marrow transplant, extensive chemotherapy and an experimental immunotherapy drug. Lauren joined the trial at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in late 2016 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 RCH. 

How the Foundation is helping 

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 acute lymphoblastic leukaemia 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 coordination 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 (2012-2019).

Immunotherapy trial for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) patient