People with blood cancer who have exhausted all other treatment options will soon receive a “game-changing” therapy that has the potential to beat their illness.

The “revolutionary” treatment – which uses a person’s own cells to attack their cancer – is being offered at St George’s Hospital to eligible patients across Surrey and South West London.

It’s known as CAR-T and is considered to be highly effective, with about 50 to 70 per cent of patients responding positively when offered it.

From this month, the one-time treatment will be rolled out at St George’s to certain adults with blood cancers including lymphoma and leukaemia – benefitting about 20 patients in the first year and more in the years that follow.

It is offered to those who have relapsed and haven’t responded to other treatments, such as chemotherapy or transplants.

Professor Mickey Koh, Clinical Director for Renal, Haematology and Oncology at St George’s, said: “This is a very exciting medicine – a game-changer as it represents a major shift in medicine, using a patient’s own immune cells that have undergone modification and further manufacture outside of the body and then re-infused back into the patient. It has been shown to be very effective, and after just one month you often already know if a patient has responded to treatment.”

He added: “However, It doesn’t come without risk, because CAR-T cells can potentially cause severe side effects. Fortunately, here at St George’s, we have fantastic and supportive intensive care, neurology and cardiology teams, who will be on hand should any issues arise. That’s one of the reasons why St George’s is best placed to offer this novel immunotherapy – we have all the expertise who are needed here on site.”

CAR-T medicine is initially prepared at St George’s where T cells – a type of immune white blood cell – are collected from a patient and transported to the pharmaceutical company. These are then modified and multiplied to recognise and target cancer cells. A few weeks later, the modified T cells are returned back and infused into the patient’s blood stream.

More staff, including a new consultant, quality manager and clinical fellow, have been brought into the fold at St George’s to help deliver the CAR-T therapy, while existing team members have undergone additional training. Cementing its status as a renowned teaching hospital, specialist teams will also collect and analyse data, to help drive research forward.

Due to the complexity of CAR-T therapy, hospitals that want to offer it have to undergo a stringent application process and satisfy NHS England that they have all the required resources, facilities, and expertise in place.

Kate Slemeck, Managing Director at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I’m delighted that people living locally will be able to benefit from this exciting treatment. CAR-T therapy is a highly complex and innovative treatment that not many hospitals offer, and it’s thanks to the hard work of our experienced teams that we’ve got to this point.

“Our vision is to provide outstanding cancer care to people across the region. We know we can become a leading cancer centre, and one way we will achieve this is by offering ground-breaking and emerging treatments alongside the great care we offer.”

St George’s is a specialist cancer hospital that treats children and adults with cancer.

In May last year, St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group launched its five-year strategy, which outlines its vision to continue to be a major tertiary centre for south west London and Surrey, particularly renowned for cancer services, as well as neuroscience, renal, paediatric, and major trauma care.

To read more about how the Group intends to offer outstanding care, together, visit: Our Group strategy 2023-2028: Outstanding Care, Together – St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (