FDA Panel Approves Gene-Altering Drug To Fight Cancer

An FDA panel has approved a new gene-altering drug, the first of its kind, to fight cancer.  Twelve-year-old Emily Whitehead is alive today after becoming the first patient in the world to receive it, seven years ago, to battle childhood leukemia that was considered terminal.  She and her parents were emotional testifying at Wednesday's FDA hearing about the treatment.

It's considered a "living drug", a medicine made from a patient's own immune cells that are reprogrammed and turned into super-fighters.  It was developed at the University of Pennsylvania and licensed to Novartis.

More than 80-percent of patients in a recent study survived at least a year.  The full FDA is expected to green light the drug this fall with the hope that it can be harnessed to fight other cancers, too.