An 11-year-old boy has become the first NHS patient to receive a pioneering new cancer therapy that uses the body's own immune system to fight the disease.

Yuvan Thakkar, from Watford, received the drug Kymriah, a type of immunotherapy called CAR-T cell therapy, at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London last week.

Yuvan has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), which can be cured in around 90 per cent of children who undergo conventional chemotherapy.

However, Yuvan's cancer has failed to respond to two rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, meaning he has few options left.

Now, experts at GOSH have given him Kymriah, which was approved for use on the NHS after a deal was struck between NHS England and the drugs firm Novartis to offer it at a reduced price.

Previously, CAR-T cell therapy was only available to patients as part of research trials.

The treatment involves taking the patient's own T cells (a type of immune cell) from their blood and genetically engineering them in the laboratory so they recognise and fight cancer cells.

Watford Observer:

Photo credit: Great Ormond Street Hospital/PA

Millions of these genetically engineered CAR-T cells are grown in the laboratory and then given back to the patient via an infusion into their bloodstream.

Each dose of Kymriah is a customised treatment created using these own T-cells.

In Yuvan's case, his T cells were first extracted in November last year, and shipped to laboratories in Rotterdam and Texas, where they underwent the complex editing procedure.

Research has shown that CAR-T can lead to a cure or extended survival for a high number of patients, although not everyone benefits.

In clinical trials in the US, around 50 per cent to 62 per cent of patients survive without leukaemia for 12 months or more.

Watford Observer:

(left to right) consultant Dr Sara Ghorashian, Yuvan Thakkar and Clinical Nurse Specialist Annette Hill. Photo credit: Great Ormond Street Hospital/PA Wire

Yuvan, a keen cricket fan, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2014.

Despite treatment and a bone marrow transplant last year, he was still found to still have leukaemia.

Yuvan's parents, his mother Sapna, and father Vinay, said in a statement: "When Yuvan was diagnosed it was the most heartbreaking news we had ever received.

"We tried to stay hopeful as they say leukaemia in children has 90 per cent cure rate, but sadly, his illness relapsed.

"This new therapy is our last hope. It means a rebirth to us if this treatment works and we hope it really does.

"We are so glad that we at least have this new option now.

"If he had relapsed a year ago it would have been a different story."

Yuvan said, "I really hope I get better soon so I can visit Lego House in Denmark. I love Lego and am building a big model Bugatti while I'm in hospital."

Side-effects from CAR-T can occur and patients need to be kept in isolation following treatment.

CAR-T can cost around £280,000 per patient, although NHS England has brought down this price during negotiations.

Dr Sara Ghorashian, consultant in paediatric haematology at GOSH and Yuvan's doctor, said: "We are so pleased to be able to offer patients like Yuvan another chance to be cured.

"While it will be a while before the outcome of this powerful new therapy is known, the treatment has shown very promising results in clinical trials and we are hopeful that it will help."