CAR T-cell therapy, or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, is a type of immunotherapy that uses the power of the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Because the body’s immune system provides one of the best defenses against cancer, CAR T-cell therapy uses this concept to fight off cancer cells.
As a treatment option, adoptive cell transfer (ACT) is the transfer of T cells into a patient, or collecting and using patients’ own immune cells to treat their cancer. CAR T-cell therapy is a type of ACT and has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). CAR T-cell therapy involves the removal of T cells from the patient which are then armed with new proteins that allow them to recognize cancer, and given back to the patient in large numbers. When back inside the body, the modified immune cells target the cancer cells and can destroy them. These immune cells then exist in the patient’s body, known as “living drugs.”
Due to the remarkable responses seen in children and adult patients from the use of CAR T-cell therapy, it is no longer restricted to small clinical trials or to patients with advanced blood cancers only. In August 2017, the first CAR T-cell therapy was approved for the treatment of some children and adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and in October 2017, a second CAR T-cell therapy was approved for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).