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An Indian-origin teenager, Yuvan Thakkar, who was diagnosed with cancer, became the first child in the United Kingdom to benefit from a pioneering CAR T therapy called tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah). According to news agency PTI, the 16-year-old teen said that he is now able to enjoy the things he loves after life-changing treatment thanks to a fund set up by the UK’s state-funded National Health Service to make innovative therapies accessible to thousands of patients.

According to NHS England, Thakkar from Watford, near London, received the therapy with the help of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). It comes as the National Health Service (NHS) marks a milestone this weekend of 100,000 patients benefiting from early access to the latest and most innovative treatments with the help of CDF.

The undisclosed cost of such treatments is covered by the fund. “My life has changed so much since I received the CAR T therapy,” said Thakkar, as quoted by PTI. He also thanked Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London for the “incredible” care he received.

“I remember I had to take so many trips to hospital and had long periods out of school… They have helped me recover to a state where I am able to enjoy so many things I love doing, such as playing snooker or pool, meeting friends and family, and going on wonderful holidays. It’s hard to imagine how things would have been if the treatment wasn’t available,” he said, as quoted by PTI.

Thakkar was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia at the age of six. He received a treatment that modifies a person’s immune cells to recognise and attack cancer cells. His treatment began in 2019, when he was 11 years old, after he relapsed following other treatments such as chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

The teenager’s mother, Sapna, said the family had received a “second chance” at life since the success of the treatment. Without the fast-track access available through the CDF, the 45-year-old said there may have been no other way for her son to receive the life-saving treatment.

“It felt like our prayers were finally answered. We still feel so grateful for this chance that’s been given to us and not a single day passes by when we haven’t felt thankful for all the doctors and nurses that have helped us through this long and difficult journey,” said Sapna Thakkar, as quoted by PTI.

What Is Cancer Drugs Fund?

The CDF, which opened in its current form in July 2016, is used by NHS England to provide fast-tracked access for patients to all new cancer treatments approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), in addition to gathering further evidence of long-term effectiveness for promising drugs. It allows faster access to more than 100 drugs to help improve, extend or – in some cases – save their lives.

“Treating 100,000 cancer patients in England with innovative treatments through the Cancer Drugs Fund is a fantastic milestone for the health service to reach, and testament to the hard work of oncologists and their teams across the country,” said Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, as quoted by PTI.

“This vital fund is helping ensure patients get access to the most promising drugs far quicker than would otherwise be the case, helping people with cancer like Yuvan receive a life-changing intervention that sets a path for a longer, healthier life spent with family and friends,” he said.

The fund benefits people with common cancers, such as breast, lung, colorectal and prostate, as well as those with less common cancers, such as ovarian, cervical, kidney, skin, myeloma, lymphoma and leukaemia, and rare cancers, including thyroid and biliary tract.

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