What is CAR-T Therapy?
Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy is a recently developed strategy for the treatment of leukemia, the most commonly found malignancy in children. Sheba Medical Center has achieved successful results with this cutting-edge therapy.
How Does The Therapy Work?
An amount of blood is taken from the patient and the T-cells, a type of immune cell, are separated out from the rest of the blood in a special laboratory. The T-cells are then genetically engineered to cause them to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). The CARs will allow the T-cells to recognize tumor cells, targeting and destroying the tumor.
In effect, the CAR-T process turns the patient’s own T-cells into hunter-killers of cancer.
The engineered T-cells are given some time to multiply in the laboratory and then injected back into the patient. The patient receives chemotherapy while the cells are growing in the lab. The chemotherapy will suppress the patient’s immune system, allowing the CAR T-cells to perform better once they’re injected.
The entire process takes about 10 days, but patients remain in the hospital for a minimum of 2 weeks for monitoring of toxicities. This observation period may be longer.
What are the Possible Side Effects from CAR-T Therapy?
CAR T-cells are associated with significant but reversible side effects in 40-60% of patients treated.
These include a flu-like syndrome with fever and shortness of breath. This syndrome may lead to low blood pressure, chills, and more. Neurologic side effects, like a headache and seizures, have been reported. All these effects are reversible, but may be significant and require treatment in the ICU.