CAR-T Cell Therapy

Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, offers CAR-T cell therapy for children and teens with fairly advanced and/or recurrent B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). CAR-T cell therapy is a newer approach to cancer treatment that uses the body’s own immune cells to kill cancerous cells. Norton Children’s Cancer Institute is the only pediatric program in Kentucky offering CAR-T cell therapy.

CAR-T cell therapy was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating relapsed B-cell ALL in 2017. At this time, CAR-T cell therapy is not used for other types of leukemia or childhood cancer, but research is ongoing to expand this therapy to other types of childhood cancer.

What Is CAR-T Cell Therapy?

CAR-T cell therapy is an immunotherapy in which the body’s immune system is activated to fight off disease. CAR-T cell therapy teaches the body’s immune system to recognize and eliminate cancerous B cells, which can help the body control the growth of cancer cells over time.

How CAR-T Cell Therapy Works

CAR-T cell therapy works as follows:

  • T cells are taken from an ALL patient’s blood through apheresis. T cells are a type of white blood cell, are designed to eliminate disease from the body.
  • The T cells are genetically modified in a lab and “taught” to express a protein that recognizes and binds to CD19, a marker found on cancerous B cells.
  • The T cells taught to recognize cancerous B cells, called “CAR-T cell product,” are injected back into the patient’s body.
  • The modified T cells begin to attach to the cancerous B cells, destroying the cancer cells.
  • The modified T cells also begin multiplying in the body, which can help the body continue to fight cancerous B cells long after therapy ends.

Children and teens who receive CAR-T cell therapy will continue to be monitored for side effects after therapy.

Ask Your Physician About CAR-T Cell Therapy

Families are encouraged to ask about potential benefits of cellular therapy early on during a child’s cancer treatment process. For CAR-T cell therapy, collecting cells from a patient before serious illness and/or intensive chemotherapy can help the therapy be as successful as possible.

About 85% of ALL cases are successfully treated with standard chemotherapy. However, in the other 15% of cases, chemotherapy works temporarily or not at all. CAR-T cell therapy is not a treatment for newly diagnosed leukemia — only for patients whose ALL is not responding to chemotherapy and the disease may have returned after a bone marrow transplant.

Cancer – 7725

Norton Children’s Cancer Institute

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