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Last summer, Joseph McMullan learned that he would become one of the first British patients to receive CAR-T therapy – a breakthrough cancer treatment designed to turbo-charge the immune system to seek out and destroy tumour cells.
He believed he’d been thrown a lifeline after chemotherapy failed. The treatment has, with some justification, been dubbed a game-changer, a miracle cure, and even ‘magic’: in trials, some patients with seemingly untreatable and aggressive illness had been brought back from the brink.
Excitement - Forms - CAR-T - Therapy - Year
Such is the excitement over its potential that forms of CAR-T therapy were rapidly approved last year by the NHS for adults – and children – with specific types of blood cancer.
Joseph, 31, has a type of lymphoma – cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. He was eligible for the treatment and felt optimistic.
Stories - People - Airport - Worker - Coatbridge
‘I’d heard the stories of people being cured,’ said the airport worker from Coatbridge, near Glasgow. ‘I was nervous, having such a new treatment but I just thought, it was the best chance I’d got.
Sadly, CAR-T didn’t work for Joseph. In fact, he believes it has made his illness worse. Rather than his immune system, it is his cancer that has become turbo-charged.
Weeks - Procedure - Process - Cells - Lab
Within five weeks of undergoing the procedure – a two-month process in which immune cells are extracted, doctored in a lab and later reintroduced into the patient’s body – a tumour already in his abdomen began to grow rapidly.
The tumour is so large that it is crushing his kidneys and blocking the circulation to his pelvis.
Course - Cancer - Way - Treatment
Of course, the cancer may have progressed this way, regardless of what treatment he had. But could he be right?
According to emerging evidence, the worrying answer is yes – with some cancer experts claiming that there is an ‘urgent need’ for more research to reveal exactly...
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