Six-year-old Erin Cross is now in remission from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) after she traveled from the United Kingdom to the United States to receive experimental treatment at the Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Erin, who was diagnosed with ALL at age 2, was able to successfully achieve remission by her doctors in the UK. However, doctors warned her parents that the cancer was likely to return. Because of this, Erin’s mother spent countless hours researching experimental treatments, particularly those in which patient’s t-cells were re-engineered. And when Erin unfortunately relapsed, the research her mother did paid off.

Erin and her family raised $180,000 in just a few short days to fly her out to Seattle for the experimental treatment, called CAR T-cell therapy. Although the treatment itself is covered by the hospital because it is experimental, other costs incurred for being at the hospital would not be covered since she is ineligible for US healthcare (being a British citizens). The process of the experimental treatment re-engineers a patient’s t-cells so that they attack the leukemia, similar to how the body attacks an invading virus. [1]

image-car-t-cells-enlarge
Illustration of the components of second- and third-generation chimeric antigen receptor T cells. (Adapted by permission from the American Association for Cancer Research: Lee, DW et al. The Future Is Now: Chimeric Antigen Receptors as New Targeted Therapies for Childhood Cancer. Clin Cancer Res; 2012;18(10); 2780–90. doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-1920)

During the first phase of an experiment involving CAR T-cell therapy, 93% of patients who participated achieved remission. In order to participate in the program, patients must have been diagnosed with ALL and have already exhausted all other non-experimental treatment options. This is because CAR T-cell therapy is not classified as a standard treatment.

Erin was entered into the second phase of the experiment and has had her own success story. And while Erin is now categorized as in remission, she is waiting to undergo a bone marrow transplant to ensure that she stays cancer-free.

Read: Cord-Blood Transplants Provide Fresh Hope for Leukemia Patients 

Though Erin seems to be experiencing a happy ending, her journey hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. At one point during the treatment, the young girl was on a ventilator experiencing seizures. At that time, her bone marrow showed that 26% of it was leukemia. Now, there is none, and Erin’s family couldn’t be happier.

Her mother told ABC News:

“She all of a sudden got her energy. We were hoping and praying that the bone marrow would be clear. As the days progressed from then, she’s just gotten stronger. It’s the first time she’s been leukemia-free since March.”

Erin has also been able to regrow her hair and is acting like a normal 6-year-old. She even wants to organize a dance-off in the future.

image-ps_erin_cross_cancer_treatment_02_jc_160922_4x3_992

Sources:

[1] The Daily Mail


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Post written byAnna Scanlon:
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.