Girl with leukaemia - level 3

Girl with leukaemia - level 3

11-11-2015 07:00

Layla Richards has spent the first year of her life fighting leukaemia, but after chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant failed, specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital said they'd run out of options. Her parents refused to give up and Layla became the first person in the world to try an experimental new treatment.

“We didn’t see it as a tough decision. We saw it as the only decision. There was no other option. We didn't agree with going home to do nothing. We wanted to try it. We didn’t want no what-ifs. We wanted to know we've tried everything for her.”

This designer cell treatment works by taking healthy donor cells and adding cancerous killing genes. To stop Layla’s body attacking these genes, scientists remove DNA to make them invisible to her immune system. The treatment can then attack the leukaemia. Only one millilitre of this was injected into her body and the cancer appears to have been beaten.

The pioneering treatment given to Layla was so new it’d only ever been tested in the lab, but now it has to undergo full clinical trials to ensure it’s suitable for wider patient use. It's not often treatments like this work first time and doctors say Layla’s success is a big breakthrough.

“It’s not just leukaemias – maybe eventually, different sorts of cancers can be targeted in this way, but it does mean we have a new weapon, and it does mean therefore  that children like Layla who really are up against it now have something that we can do.”

And like Layla, many others may be able to fight back against one of the most common childhood cancers.

“She’s energetic, keeps us up late at night and gets us up early in the morning. And yeah, Layla is just magic…”

Difficult words: bone marrow (the material in the middle of some bones), what-if (when you wonder how something could happen), designer (a rare and new thing), pioneering (involving new methods), sort (a type).


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