Health Check: Leukemia treatment breakthrough

Health Check: Leukemia treatment breakthrough. (NBC10 Photo)

A medical breakthrough in the treatment of leukemia.

This treatment genetically alters a patient's own cells

“For those kids who have very resistant disease and don't respond to traditional treatments this is a huge breakthrough," said Dr. Tom Renaud, a pediatric hematologist/ oncologist at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, which means he sees children and teenagers with blood diseases and cancer.

This new treatment is specifically for kids with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL.

"Standard treatments we have these days will cure between 85 and 90 percent of kids," said Renaud.

Now there's something he says for the 10 to 15 percent of children who don't respond to standard therapy.

"It's called Car T cell therapy," said Renaud.

"You take their own T cells out of their body with a blood draw and then you genetically modify them and essentially you introduce genes that allow those t cells to recognize the leukemia as foreign and kill the leukemia cells so you’re actually using the body’s own immune system."

Dr. Renaud says this new therapy should soon be available at Boston Children's Hospital, close enough that it promises to benefit children here at Hasbro.

"The major study that the FDA used to approve this therapy had 63 patients in it and they had a really great success rate. They had more than 80 percent of patients go in to remission with this kind of treatment."

The first child to receive this treatment (it was experimental then) was in Philadelphia back in 2012. She was six years old and near death. She is now 12 and leukemia free.

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