A Revolutionary Therapy Cures 13-Year-Old Girl’s Incurable Cancer

This base editing tool was able to kill Alyssa’s cancerous T-cells.

Alyssa, a 13-year-old girl from Leicester, UK was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May last year. The T-cells were growing out of control and her cancer was aggressive. All treatments including Chemotherapy, and then a bone-marrow transplant had failed.

Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital used “base editing” to perform a feat of biological engineering to build her a new living drug, reported BBC.

After six months, the cancer was gone, it was undetectable but doctors are still monitoring Alyssa in case cancer comes back, the report added.

Alyssa told BBC, “Eventually I would have passed away.” Her mother, Kiona, said, “This time last year I was dreading Christmas, thinking this is our last with her”. She added that she just cried through Alyssa’s 13th birthday in January.

Base editing was invented only six years ago. Bases are the language of life, the four types of base- adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T) – are the building blocks of our genetic code. Just as letters in the alphabet spell out words that carry meaning, the billions of bases in our DNA spell out the instruction manual for our body, BBC report said.

Base editing lets scientists zoom into a precise part of the genetic code and then alter the molecular structure of just one base, then converting it into another and changing the genetic instructions.

This base editing tool was able to kill Alyssa’s cancerous T-cells.

“She’s the first patient to be treated with this technology,” Prof Waseem Qasim, from UCL and Great Ormond Street told the news website. He further explained that this genetic manipulation was a “very fast-moving area of science” with “enormous potential” across a range of diseases.

Alyssa spent 16 weeks in the hospital, she was left vulnerable to infection as the designer cells attacked both the cancerous T-cells in her body and those that protect her from disease. She was in remission for a month and was given a second bone-marrow transplant to build her immune system.

The report said that the two most recent investigations have been clear.

“You just learn to appreciate every little thing. I’m just so grateful that I’m here now,” said Alyssa.

“It’s crazy. It’s just amazing I’ve been able to have this opportunity, I’m very thankful for it and it’s going to help other children, as well, in the future.”

Alyssa was diagnosed with T-cell leukaemia in May 2021, after a long period of what the family thought were colds, viruses and general tiredness.

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