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What is CAR-T therapy or adoptive cell transfer?

What is CAR-T therapy or adoptive cell transfer?

CAR T-Cell therapy is a type of cancer treatment where a patient’s T cells are modified in the laboratory so that they will attack cancer cells. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that work with macrophages, which is a type of white blood cell related to infection.

T-cells are taken from a patient’s blood, and these T-cells are modified to include a special receptor that binds to particular sites on a patient’s cancer cells. Such receptors are called chimeric antigen receptors (CAR), and large quantities of CAR-T cells are produced in the laboratory and administered by infusion. 

This treatment is used for particular blood cancers and is a significant area of research for the treatment of other types of cancer as well. 

How does CAR T-cell therapy work?

CAR T-cell therapy causes T-cells to target substances the body identifies as harmful known as antigens, located on the surface of certain types of cancer cells. A protein is added to the surface of T-cells to provide this targeting capability, which is achieved during the manufacturing of CAR T-cells. This protein is the namesake of CAR T-cell therapy and is called a chimeric antigen receptor or CAR protein. 

The CAR protein is made up of 3 separate proteins:

  • One that identifies antigens on the cancer cell

  • Two that signal the T-cell to activate during the attachment of the first protein to the antigen of the cancer cell

What cancers can be treated with CAR T-cell therapy?

Different cancers may be treated with CAR T-cell therapy, especially cancers of the blood and lymphatic system. CAR T-cell therapy is most frequently administered if traditional cancer treatments are ineffective or if the cancer reappears. Some examples of treatments include:

  • B cell lymphoma

  • Mantle cell lymphoma

  • Leukemia and recurrent large B cell lymphoma

  • Reoccurring B cell lymphoma

However, these are only the cancers that currently have approved CAR T-cell therapies. Many other types of cancer undergoing ongoing clinical trials that include:

  • Lung cancer

  • Liver cancer

  • Pancreatic cancer

  • Colon/colorectal cancer

  • Ovarian cancer

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