CAR T-Cell Therapy

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A New Form of Immunotherapy

John Theurer Cancer Center is one of the few sites offering chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy—a highly promising form of personalized immunotherapy for certain blood cancers—and has been involved in CAR T-cell research for nearly a decade. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved CAR T-cell therapy for use in patients up to age 25 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that either came back or stopped responding to other leukemia treatments, and to treat adult patients with certain types of large B-cell lymphoma who have not responded to or who have relapsed after at least two other kinds of treatment. The treatment is under study and expected to be approved for other types of blood cancer.

What Is CAR T-Cell Therapy?

With CAR T-cell therapy, immune cells called T cells are:

  1. Removed from the patient through a process called “apheresis” (the separation of T cells from other components of the blood)
  2. Genetically modified, using a disarmed virus, to produce receptors on their surfaces called CARs, allowing the T cells to recognize and attach to certain targets on cancer cells
  3. Grown to larger quantities (hundreds of millions)
  4. Returned to the patient, where the CAR T cells can now find, bind to, and kill cancer cells.

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Benefits and Side Effects

What Are the Benefits of CAR T-Cell Therapy?
Clinical trials of CAR T cells in blood cancers have shown that even in patients whose cancer came back after multiple treatments, CAR T-cell therapy helped them achieve remissions that lasted for years. Others can live longer without their cancer getting worse, and in some cases can then benefit from curative cancer treatment such as stem cell transplantation.

Does CAR T-Cell Therapy Have Side Effects?
CAR T-cell therapy is an intensive treatment that requires specialized expertise and resources to support the patients who receive it. Some patients experience serious side effects, such as fevers or low blood pressure, as the modified T cells become active in the body. Because John Theurer Cancer Center has one of the largest bone marrow transplantation programs in the nation and our doctors have pioneered advances in the use of this treatment, many of our cancer specialists have exceptionally strong backgrounds in immunology and are well-equipped to support patients who develop these side effects.

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