NSW first CAR T-cell therapy gives hope for Aussie kids with Leukaemia

Oncologists at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (SCH) have delivered the state’s first CAR T-cell infusion to 11-year-old Kamm Deininger, who is currently cancer-free following two relapses and a three year battle with a rare and devastating form of Leukaemia.

Kamm received his life-changing CAR T-cell infusion in May, becoming the first child in Australia to receive CAR T-cell therapy for Philadelphia Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (Ph+ALL). 

Paediatric Oncologist and Deputy Director of the Transplant and Cellular Therapies Program at the Kids Cancer Centre at SCH, Dr Richard Mitchell says this therapy is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in leukaemia treatment, giving hope to those who have relapsed on standard therapies.

“As oncologists, we feel an incredible obligation to give each child the absolute best, fighting chance. The availability of this treatment in NSW means more children from across Australia, in equally devastating situations as Kamm, will be offered hope where previously there was none.” Dr Richard Mitchell, Kids Cancer Centre. 

CAR T-cells are a living drug that work very differently from chemotherapy. The patient’s own immune cells (T-cells) are removed in a simple procedure and then genetically reprogrammed in the laboratory to attack the cancer cells. These modified cells are grown to sufficient numbers and then reinfused back into the patient’s bloodstream where inside the body they persist, able to scan and destroy leukaemia cells without damaging most other healthy cells.

Kamm’s mother, Yiching knows first-hand the pain that comes with a devastating cancer diagnosis, having been by her son’s side for more than 60 hospital admissions. 

"The last relapse in March was extremely unexpected. Throughout treatment Kamm endured intense rounds of chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant from his sister, the standard treatment for his cancer and at the time, his only option,” says Yiching.

Kamm’s oncology team arranged access to CAR-T cell therapy, and following a simple infusion he experienced no side effects. A month later we received the ultimate outcome, ‘all clear’. He is fast getting back to his old self, he’s so well in fact that he has returned to school and karate.” Yiching, Kamm's mum. 

Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick is one of only two Australian sites to deliver CAR T-cell therapy and is providing last-chance therapy treatment for children from interstate and even internationally.