By Our Reporter
A new cancer drug called Blina has been introduced with some children already using it for treatment in the place of Chemotherapy.
Blina is already licensed to treat adults with cancer – and experts hope to show it can safely help children too.
Some 20 centres around the UK are using it off-label for children with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (B-ALL).
The drug is an immunotherapy that seeks out cancer cells so the body’s own immune system can recognise and destroy them.
And this death hunt is precisely targeted – healthy cells are untouched, unlike with chemo.
Blina comes in a bag of liquid administered through a thin plastic tube that remains running into a vein in the patient’s arm for many months.
A battery-operated pump controls how quickly the drug trickles into the bloodstream – a bag can last days.
All of the kit can be carried in a backpack smaller than an A4 textbook, making it fully portable.
Chief investigator and consultant paediatric haematologist, Prof Ajay Vora said: “Chemotherapies are poisons that kill the leukaemic cells but also kill and damage normal cells – and that is what causes their side effects.
“Blinatumomab is a gentler, kinder treatment,” says Prof Ajay Vora.
Another targeted immunotherapy drug, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR-T), has also recently become available.
But it is more expensive than blina and the patient’s own cells must be taken and then altered in the lab before being given back as the medicine, which takes time.