CAR T Therapy
CAR T-cell therapy is an innovative treatment that uses the body’s immune cells to fight cancer. It can provide excellent outcomes for people with blood cancers who have not responded well to other treatments. Our commitment to treating cancer includes researching new ways to use CAR T-cells for many types of cancer.
What Is CAR T-Cell Therapy?
CAR T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy, a treatment that uses your body's immune system to fight cancer. During CAR T-cell therapy, we take some of your immune cells (T-cells) and reprogram them to fight the cancer you have. A chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) is then added to those cells which helps them recognize and attack the cancer. Millions of these reprogrammed T-cells are then re-infused into your body, where they help kill cancer cells.
We use CAR T-cell therapy to treat these hematologic (blood) cancers
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
- Follicular lymphoma
- Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
- Mantle cell lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Treatment of additional cancers may be available through one of our clinical trials
Our hematology experts specialize in using CAR T-cell therapy to treat cancers. We also offer innovative treatments through clinical trials that expand the possibilities of how we can treat patients with CAR T-cell therapy.
Your Guide to CAR T-cell Therapy
From your initial appointment through recovery, we are with you through every phase of your care. Our doctors are experts with decades of experience in treating and researching cancer, and our nurses are specially trained to care for people receiving CAR T-cell therapy.
Here's what to expect during CAR T-cell therapy:
- First appointment: You meet with a physician to determine if CAR T-cell therapy is best for you. We will also discuss your treatment options, including standard CAR T-cell therapy and if you may be eligible for a clinical trial.
- Cell collection: We use a catheter to collect white blood cells (T-cells) from your blood, which will be used to make the CAR T-cells. Some clinical trials may allow for skipping this step by using cells from healthy donors.
- Manufacturing: We send the cells to a manufacturer where they are reprogrammed to recognize and attack your cancer. Some clinical trials may allow for skipping this step by using cells from healthy donors.
- Infusion: We put the reprogrammed cells back into your body through an intravenous (IV) infusion.
- Recovery: We monitor you closely for at least two weeks so we can watch for side effects. Some people need to stay in the hospital during this time, while others may be able to go home each night as part of our outpatient program.
- Ongoing monitoring: We monitor you through regular clinic visits for several more months to look for longer-term side effects and evaluate your response to the treatment. You may need to stay near the hospital during this time.
At Cedars-Sinai, we offer CAR T-cell clinical trials that provide new treatment options for patients, including rapidly available “off-the-shelf” CAR T-cell therapy that eliminates the need for cell collection and manufacturing, as well as using different cell types that may reduce the side effects of treatment. We also offer clinical trials that treat some blood and solid tumor cancers that otherwise would not be able to be treated with CAR T-cell therapy. At your appointment, we can discuss if you might qualify for one of these clinical trials.
Frequently Asked Questions
For inpatient treatment, you will have a private room and bathroom, but you don’t have to stay in your room. You can walk around the floor and possibly even go outside. You can bring your laptop for work, streaming devices and video games for entertainment during your stay. If you qualify for outpatient treatment, you can go home or to a local hotel at the end of the day.
Typically, yes. But you need to follow any visitor restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and hospital policies.
Time off varies for each patient. Your immune system is suppressed for several months after CAR T-cell therapy, so you will be at increased risk for infections. Typically, people are out of work and must limit other activities for several months, but this depends on the rate of your recovery and the type of work you do.
We will discuss the side effects in detail at your meeting. Side effects vary for each person, but some short-term side effects may include:
- Confusion and difficulty speaking
- Tremors and, rarely, seizures
- Fevers, low blood pressure and shortness of breath
- Low blood counts
- Low blood counts