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Congratulations to Professor Dario Campana (Department of Paediatrics) who was conferred the prestigious Gabbay award for his groundbreaking CAR-T cell immunotherapy work. He is one of two researchers conferred the international Jacob and Louise Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine, which recognises scientists in academia, medicine or industry whose work hold outstanding scientific content and significant practical consequences in the biomedical sciences.

Prof Campana is one of the pioneers of the CAR-T cell therapy, which has been recently used to successfully treat children and adults with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) here in Singapore at the National University Hospital (NUH).

“I am pleased that the Gabbay committee identified CAR-T cells for recognition this year, and am honoured to be a recipient of the award together with Dr. Sadelain. CAR-T cell therapy is having a dramatic impact on ALL treatment; we are currently working hard to improve this technology to extend it to other forms of cancer,” said Prof Campana.

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CAR-T cells (in red) attacking cancer cells (in grey)
In CAR-T cell therapy, a patient's immune cells are programmed in the laboratory to become cancer cell killers. The immune cells, known as T cells, are drawn from a patient’s blood and equipped with a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR), a special receptor that binds to a specific protein on the patient’s cancer cells.

Bringing Hope to Cancer Patients

The 10 patients, aged between four and 28, who were treated using this CAR-T immunotherapy are responding well to the treatment. Other standard treatment for ALL (e.g. chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants) were not working effectively for these patients previously.

“Prof Campana’s work brings hope to cancer patients,” said Associate Professor Allen Yeoh. “For the first time, without needing to go to the USA, Singaporeans with relapsed/resistant ALL that was previously considered incurable can now receive such life-saving treatment in Singapore.”

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(From left) Prof Campana and Prof Yeoh with two of their patients who received the CAR-T cell therapy – Joel Lim and Chriscavin Wijaya

Moving Forward

Assoc Prof Yeoh added, “We are glad to be able to provide compassionate CAR-T cell therapy for Singapore and ASEAN children with relapsed/resistant ALL. Alongside Prof Campana’s team, we hope to start CAR-T cell therapy trials in January 2020 for children and adults with high risk and relapsed/resistant ALL.”

The expanded trial is expected to involve about 100 patients over a period of five to 10 years; and will also examine other ways in which the CAR could be used to treat other forms of leukemia and cancers.

Read the press release here.

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