Teenager who got into Oxford while battling Leukemia raises more than £500,000 for treatment abroad

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  • September 15, 2020
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A teenager who got into Oxford University while battling a rare form of Leukaemia is to travel abroad for pioneering treatment after raising more than £500,000 in six days.

Alviar Cohen, 18, from Redbourn, Hertfordshire, was diagnosed with T-cell Leukaemia in 2017 aged 15 and has been cared for by Great Ormond Street and UCLH hospitals.

Over the past three years, Mr Cohen has refused to let the disease hold him back – reading, studying and taking video conferences from his hospital bed and going on to achieve 5 A*s in his A-levels this year.

The 18-year-old was offered a place this summer to study biomedical science at the University of Oxford.

Mr Cohen is among 10 per cent of people with a rare form of the disease which is more difficult to cure.

Alviar Cohen with his twin brother Justin.

After “countless” rounds of chemotherapy treatments, two courses of radiotherapy and a bone marrow transplant from his twin brother, Justin, he was told in January 2020 his cancer was progressing and doctors had “run out of options.”

The Cohen family started a Gofundme page after coming across a team in Singapore who had cured a five-year-old boy from the UK – suffering the same condition – using the CAR-T therapy.

The treatment, which is not available in the UK, is specifically developed for individual patients and involves reprogramming their immune system cells, which are then used to target the cancer.

Mr Cohen has now raised the £500,000 he needs for the treatment through his GoFundMe page.

Just one day after the launch of his fundraiser last week, he had gained support from over 4,000 donors. Writer Neil Gaiman and England rugby union captain Owen Farrell were among those to share his fundraising page.

“It’s been surreal that so many people have come together in such a short amount of time to help me raise this money.

“I’ve also had some people who have been diagnosed with cancer that I don’t even know reach out to me calling me an inspiration, it does feel weird but I’ve always been someone that wants to help or inspire others so I’m grateful that I can do this and share my story.”

The teenager will be travelling to Singapore with his mother, Chiharu Cohen. 

Mr Cohen added: “It’s been three years with Leukaemia but we were able to raise this amount in just a matter of days – I still can’t believe it – but I’m so grateful to all our friends and the general public who shared and donated.

“Now we can plan to go to Singapore to get this treatment that could change a lot for me – I’m truly grateful.”

The 18-year-old is now in the process of planning his trip to Singapore for the treatment with his mother Chiharu who will be accompanying him.

She said she had not stopped crying since they reached the £500,000 target.

“I’m so happy, I just wasn’t expecting us to reach the target in this short amount of time – I thought it would take about three months.

“We had even started writing letters to send to big companies to see if they could help us but now we don’t have to send any off because of the kindness of people,” she said.