Meet Dr Sara Ghorashian, consultant haematologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). Sara treats patients like Conor with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), who need a bone marrow transplant.
A recommended bone marrow transplant
Conor’s treatment involved Sara initially carrying out innovative Car-T cell therapy to target his cancerous cells. Sara explains: “My specialism is Car-T cell therapy. This involves reprogramming the patient’s own immune system cells which are then used to retarget their cancer. It’s a complex treatment and we’re investigating ways of making it more perfected, making it less toxic and trying to apply it to other diseases like acute myeloid leukaemia. It has been shown in trials to cure some patients with ALL, although unfortunately in Conor’s case it was unsuccessful.
“Conor has had a bone marrow transplant as further treatment to combat his ALL. Very high doses of chemotherapy (called conditioning) are used to kill the leukaemia cells in the body, but they also kill the healthy cells in your bone marrow. After conditioning you need a bone marrow transplant using bone marrow from a donor, to make the blood cells you need again.
“We can cure more than 90% of our patients in general just with chemotherapy alone, but for patients who have relapsed disease (when the cancer returns after a period of improvement) there are instances where we would recommend a bone marrow transplant.
“Conor is a sweet boy and he just seems to get on with things. We’re monitoring him at the moment to make sure everything’s going well and there’s no evidence of the disease. He’s not had the most straight-forward journey, with a few complications meaning that he’s spent time here as an in-patient. We’re hoping to get him home very soon.”
Life at GOSH
Discussing the cancer therapy work at GOSH, Sara explains: "It's one of the largest cancer therapy centres for children in Europe and we specialise in younger-aged children, so it really is a specialist department.
“It's a privilege to work at GOSH and it's a very special place to work. We are so lucky to be getting extra support and extra resources from charitable sources including GOSH Charity. Patients get a lot out of that and it means that we can do our job even better. There’s also lots of fun and games going on all the time, and when you feel bogged down in your day's work, there's always a child that accidentally trips you up on their scooter or something to bring you back to reality!”
Raising awareness with Paul O'Grady's Little Heroes
Asked what she hopes Paul O’Grady’s Little Heroes 2 will highlight, Sara says: "If it can highlight the journey that our children go through, so that people understand how much work is involved from both our side professionally and from the families and children themselves, that would be amazing.
“For patients and families to be given a voice it creates a very powerful opportunity to help others understand what they're going through".