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Immunotherapy for children

To fight lymphoblastic leukaemia in children and young adults, the UNIL CHUV Oncology Department and the paediatric oncology consultation at the Woman-Mother-Child Department have developed a program of innovative immunotherapy in collaboration with Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The technique involves genetically modifying certain immune cells, namely T cells. The lymphocytes are programmed with a receptor, known as CAR, and then re-injected into the patient’s body to recognize and destroy cancer cells. 

Initial clinical tests on 40 young people with lymphoblastic leukaemia, although still in the early stages, produced encouraging results at Seattle Children’s Hospital between 2014 and 2016. A clinical study is scheduled at CHUV for early 2020. Prof George Coukos, head of the UNIL CHUV Oncology Department, emphasizes:

"If the findings are confirmed in the longer term, this immunotherapy is likely to revolutionize treatment for this type of cancer."

In addition to being a complex procedure, its cost – currently almost 500,000 Swiss francs – remains the biggest obstacle to widespread application.

Source: In Vivo special edition (2019) / Photo: © SAM-CHUV, Jeanne Martel

Project Ambassadors (CHUV)

Prof George Coukos

Director, UNIL CHUV Oncology Department

Francesco Ceppi

Chief Resident, Woman-Mother-Child Department

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