CAR T Therapy FAQs
CAR T therapy is a novel type of immunotherapy, or cancer treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to identify and destroy cancerous cells. If your oncologist has suggested that this treatment might be right for you, the following FAQs can help you learn more.
What is CAR T therapy?
CAR T therapy uses a genetically modified version of a patient’s own immune system cells – specifically, the T cells – to target cancerous cells. These cells normally target viruses, bacteria and other noncancerous invaders. However, researchers have found that T cells can be genetically modified to seek out cancerous cells, which have specific proteins on their surface. This can help the T cells distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells.
Which types of cancer is CAR T therapy used to treat?
T-cell therapies can be used to treat several different cancers – primarily those that involve the blood and bone marrow. These diagnoses include:
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
- Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
- Follicular lymphoma
- Mantle cell lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Transformed follicular lymphoma
- Primary mediastinal B cell lymphoma
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted CAR T therapy breakthrough status for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and B-cell lymphoma. Researchers are continuing to study additional situations in which the treatment can help improve patients’ outcomes and quality of life.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of CAR T therapy?
Unlike chemotherapy, which destroys all rapidly dividing cells in the body regardless of whether they are healthy or cancerous, T-cell therapy only targets cancerous cells. CAR T therapy has been shown to produce favorable outcomes in certain situations where other treatments have stopped working. For instance, it has been able to produce complete, durable remissions for patients with therapy-refractory lymphoma and leukemia.
As is the case with any type of cancer treatment, T-cell therapy does have the potential to cause certain side effects. Sometimes, the immune system activation can lead to a high fever, rapid pulse and difficulty breathing. Neurological side effects can also occur. However, in almost all cases, these side effects completely resolve within days to weeks and do not return. To help reduce the likelihood of serious side effects, the FDA requires cancer centers that offer CAR T therapy to obtain a special certification. As part of this process, the oncologists who provide the therapy are specially trained to recognize and manage its potential side effects.
Where can I get CAR T therapy?
Moffitt Cancer Center is one of a select few cancer centers in the nation that is certified to provide CAR T therapy. If you’d like to learn more about this treatment and whether it might be right for you, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form to request an appointment.