A milestone for medicine in our country and for children with cancer, is the first Personalised therapy by the unique in our country Cell and Gene Therapy Center for children and teenagers of the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis-ELPIDA” Children’s Oncology Hospital. The treatment, which entails the administration of special lymphoid cells, which eliminate infected cells, was applied to a 4-year child, giving it hope of life, where all other treatments were showing no prospect.
This is a pioneering treatment across the world, and in our country it is provided exclusively at the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis – ELPIDA” Children’s Oncology Hospital. The creation of this flagship project, is yet another contribution of the “ELPIDA-Association of Friends of Children with Cancer” to Greek society, and of its President, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, whose vision is to have “4 out of 4 children cured”. A life’s vision, which appears to be gradually turning into a reality.
The significance of this achievement was underlined by a visit to the hospital by the Minister of Health himself, Mr Vassilis Kikilias, on Wednesday, 27 May 2020. Mr Kikilias wished to congratulate in person the Director of the “Agia Sofia” and “P&A Kyriakou” Children’s Hospitals, Mr Manolis Papasavvas and his team, for implementing this revolutionary treatment, headed by Paediatrician Haematologist-Oncologist and Scientific Director of the Center, Dr. Evgenios Gousetis, and to be informed in detail about the progress in the health of the young patient.
Also, in recognition of her great contribution, Mr Kikilias wanted to thank the President of ELPIDA, Mrs Vardinoyannis. Their conversation, due to the special circumstances, took place through Skype.
“ELPIDA has proven itself through time with its inspiring work, standing by our children and the families of Greece and the needs that have emerged all these years. Standing by human suffering, the distress of the parents. And the children going through all this, most times make it and come out strong and healthy.
And with this new initiative you have undertaken together with the “Agia Sofia” Children’s Hospital, this new cell therapy, you are offering hope to an even larger number of children. I was fortunate enough and honoured to have this therapy presented to me in detail today by outstanding scientists and doctors. New technologies are put to the service of man and human life.
Circumstances are today particular across the world. We managed to address this pandemic, which is a public health crisis across the world, in a timely manner and with a focus on prevention. The National Health System pulled through and I believe that we protected our fellow citizens by putting forth the experts, their scientific opinions, and by informing people with transparency while organising our defence against this virus.
I am deeply touched to be here among you today to support you in what you have been doing over many years and with a lot of love, care and affection for our children, for these young heroes.
These are very positive and hopeful news. And the only thing which I can promise, and which we can promise as an organized State and Ministry of Health, is that we will stand next to you in all these initiatives, and that we will do this with great joy and a sense of responsibility. I am glad that our Hospital is a worldwide example, and that ELPIDA has supported it all these years. And you have been demonstrating your personal care and your love and empathy about how these families may feel, when they hear the earth-shattering news that their child has such a serious problem. And on the other side, the tears of joy and emotion, and the gratitude when following a process, which is scientific, which is very advanced, and which involves a lot of love from the doctors, nurses, paramedical and administrative staff, things go extremely well. A very big thank you. It is for me a joy and an honour be here with you”, said Mr Kikilias during his conversation with Mrs Vardinoyannis.
On her part, Mrs Vardinoyannis thanked Mr Kikilias for his substantial support in the implementation of this project, which was a “life’s dream”, as she noted, while also making the commitment that ELPIDA will continue to fight to implement more innovations towards treating childhood cancer. At the same time, Mrs Vardinoyannis congratulated Mr Kikilias for the management of the pandemic in our country.
“It is with great honour and joy that we welcome you once again in our Hospital, and in fact at such an important moment for ELPIDA. Because a life’s dream, which seemed unattainable a few years ago, is now becoming a reality, in our own Hospital in fact, in the Cell and Gene Therapy Center for children and teenagers. Our promise and commitment that we will manage to give hope where other therapies have failed, and that the day will come when 4 out of 4 children are cured, is now starting to become a reality.
As you know, the first personalised cell therapy with special lymph cells for the treatment of an infection by the Ebstein Barr virus, was successfully carried out in our young patient. And this fills us with emotion and joy. And I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your constant support and your visit today to our Hospital, because this visit holds a deep symbolism, as a practical demonstration of the great importance the State places, and you personally, on this achievement, which turns a new page in our country’s health sector. For us, the Hospital’s staff, the Center’s members, our members, and especially the children and their parents, the fact that you are here today, gives us courage and strength to continue our work to introduce new innovations. New firsts. I would like to wish you to keep up the good work and your strength in your important mission for our country, during such a difficult period for humanity due to the pandemic. In this collective effort, we came out winners and this makes us very proud as Greeks. And I would like to thank you and congratulate you as a Greek, on the way in which you managed this crisis.
I would like to warmly thank the Director of the “Agia Sofia” Children’s Hospital, Mr Manolis Papasavvas, the Scientific Director of the Cell and Gene Therapy Center, Dr Evgenios Gousetis, and the entire medical team of the Center on their decisive contribution to the important work of our new Center. And I would like to wish them every success in every new step they take”.
On his part, the Director of the “Agia Sofia” and “P&A Kyriakou” Hospitals, Mr Manolis Papasavvas, spoke about a milestone day for the Hospital: “Today is a milestone for our Hospital, A day of joy, optimism and hope. It is odd not to have you here with us, Mrs Vardinoyannis, due to the circumstances, as we have been accustomed to all these years. From the first transplant to this day, it has been 30 years throughout which your thoughts, your concern, your prayers for the children have remained unchanged. Through your fighting spirit and your contribution, you have given us today the opportunity, and you have our heartfelt gratitude, you have provided our Hospital, the medical and nursing staff and our researchers, with even more tools that will enable them to defeat childhood cancer. This is an important step, which takes place for the first time in our country with significant results. I would also like to congratulate the Hospital staff. All night they process the cells, to safely administer them to the child, so it can make it”.
A huge thank you was also extended to Mrs Vardinoyannis, by the Center’s Scientific Director, the paediatrician haematologist-oncologist, Dr. Evgenios Gousetis: “I am deeply touched and overjoyed, because thanks to the work of ELPIDA, thanks to your help, the Center was created, enabling us to carry out in our country any advanced treatment one could find in the USA or in Europe. These therapies are now available here, in this Unit, which the ELPIDA association, and you personally, were responsible for creating. A huge thank you for enabling us to work towards the goal of no child needing to travel abroad, and of having 4 out of 4 of our children get better”.
Information about the first personalised treatment by the Cell and Gene Therapy Center:
In the unique for our country Cell and Gene Therapy Center for children and teenagers of the “MARIANNA VARDIS VARDINOYANNIS – ELPIDA” Children’s Oncology Hospital, the first personalised cell therapy was carried out, with special lymphoid cells for the treatment of an Ebstein Barr virus infection in a 4-year old child after the transplant of haemopoetic cells.
A very effective personalized cell therapy with special cytotoxic lymphoid cells against the Ebstein Barr virus (EBV), took place on 16/5/2020 at the Cell and Gene Therapy Center of the “MARIANNA VARDIS VARDINOYANNIS – ELPIDA” Children’s Oncology Hospital, for the first time in Greece. In a 4-year old child, which had presented with a drug-resistant EBV-infection following the transplant of haemopoetic cells, special cells were administered, with the purpose of eliminating all EBV-infected cells. In healthy individuals, with a normal immune system, EBV causes a mild infection, but in immune-suppressed patients, and especially transplanted ones, it can cause lymphoma with a poor prognosis. For these patients, conventional treatment eliminates the virus in 50%, with the other patients developing EBV-associated lymphoproliferative disorder and dying. In recent years, a cell therapy has been developed, which is based on the injection of EBV-specific T-lymph cells, which are isolated from the blood of donors who have been infected with the virus and have developed immunity. The cells are isolated and processed under strict conditions, using an appropriate device which ensures proliferation and selection of the EBV-specific cells. After the recent creation of the Cell and Gene Therapy Center of the “MARIANNA VARDIS VARDINOYANNIS – ELPIDA” Children’s Oncology Hospital, a contribution of the “ELPIDA-Association of Friends of children with cancer”, the planning and implementation of such advanced cell therapies in our country has now been made possible.