What Is CAR-T?

by | Mar 29, 2023 | Rally Blog, What Is

You may have heard of CAR T-cell therapy, also called CAR T, but what is it? It is an immunotherapy treatment that uses your child’s own immune cells, specifically the T-cells, to fight specific blood cancers.

CAR-T can be a frontline treatment or an option if one or more treatments did not work, meaning the cancer is resistant to treatment, or if the cancer returned.

Medical professionals do a blood draw to collect your child’s T-cells, a type of white blood cell. Then the T-cells are sent to a specialized lab where they are changed (genetically modified) into individualized CAR T cells with the goal of making them destroyers of the cancer.

CAR stands for chimeric antigen receptor and that is what is attached to your child’s T cells and programmed to attack the cancer cells.

It takes two to four weeks to make CAR T cells. The CAR T cells are then infused through an IV into your child to help his or her immune system find and destroy cancer cells. CAR T is only available at certain medical facilities where staff have been trained and certified.

Currently, CAR T immunotherapy is one of the most promising areas of cancer treatment.

The FDA has approved these cancers for CAR-T:

  • B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), in people up to 25 years of age
  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)
  • Follicular lymphoma
  • High-grade B-cell lymphoma
  • Large B-cell lymphoma transformed from follicular lymphoma
  • Mantle cell lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma

Some side effects from CAR T may include:

  • High fever and chills
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Headaches
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling very tired
  • Muscle and/or joint pain

After receiving the CAR T infusion, you and your child may need to stay at or near the CAR T center for at least four weeks.

Because of generous donations, Rally was a funder of CAR T-cell therapy research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We are grateful for those donors and the doctors and scientists in Dr. Steven Grupp’s lab who spent years developing CAR-T therapy which was first given in 2017 to Emily Whitehead.



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