There’s new hope for those who struggle with treatment-resistant blood cancer, and it comes in the form of CAR-T therapy. CAR-T cell therapy uses the patient’s own white blood cells to fend off cancer inside the body. So far, it’s produced optimistic results for those suffering from certain types of lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. And it bypasses the uncomfortable side-effects associated with chemotherapy. The doctors and oncologists on the front lines, fighting the battle against treatment-resistant forms of cancer, have renewed hope, thanks to this revolutionary form of cell therapy. The hope is that more of their patients will not only improve through CAR-T cell therapy, but that they’ll go into complete remission. Here’s what you need to know about CAR-T cell therapy for cancer.
How CAR-T Therapy Works
Doctors harvest healthy white blood cells from the patient who suffers from treatment-resistant cancer. These T-cells are then genetically modified to contain chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs. Once reintroduced into the body, the CAR-T cells recognize and attach to cancerous cells, blasting them with deadly cytotoxins.
Early on, CAR-T cell therapy, while proving effective in fighting cancer, could cause serious side-effects, such as cytokine release syndrome, neurotoxicity, and other ill effects. Since that time, scientists have worked to continually tweak and improve this life-saving treatment to make it safer and more effective. Now, CAR-T cell therapy is as safe as it has ever been, even though it’s still a relatively new treatment. As a result, more and more patients are finding relief from diagnoses that were once fatal.
What Lies Ahead for CAR-T Therapy Research?
At present, CAR-T therapy is only approved by the FDA to treat a handful of cancers. And the process of harvesting, modifying, and re-infusing the required white blood cells is lengthy and expensive. However, scientists continue to make breakthrough discoveries. The hope is, it will soon be possible to harvest and store white blood cells from healthy patients and modify them for universal use. This could result in an off-the-shelf treatment that’s ready to go immediately when a patient needs help.
Because it’s often difficult to harvest enough healthy white blood cells from a patient who has cancer, an off-the-shelf treatment option has the potential to save more lives than ever before.
Where Can a Patient Receive CAR-T Cell Therapy?
Many hospitals and cancer centers are approved to treat cancer patients using CAR-T cell therapy. Patients can find a comprehensive list by state at the Blood & Marrow Transplant Information Network. However, if there is no medical facility nearby that can help, patients may be able to seek treatment by joining a clinical trial. Information on clinical trials is usually available at the local cancer center.
If you or a loved one struggles with treatment-resistant forms of blood cancer, advances in CAR-T cell therapy are good news, indeed. Ask your oncologist if you’re a candidate for this potentially life-saving treatment and where you can go to find help today.