CAR T-Cell Therapy

T-cells are a type of white blood cell. They form part of the immune system, and their purpose is to destroy abnormal cells and germs.

Unfortunately, in patients with cancer, T-cells often don’t recognize cancer cells as harmful. Instead, they ignore them, which allows them to multiply and spread throughout the body.

CAR T-cell therapy is a new, groundbreaking treatment that turns T-cells into effective weapons against cancer. The T-cells are modified with a special molecule called a “chimeric antigen receptor” that teaches them to attack cancer cells.

CAR T-cell therapy offers hope to patients with certain cancers who have not found improvement with other approaches such as chemotherapy and radiation. Many patients who undergo CAR T-cell therapy achieve sustained remissions. Some are even cured.

Washington University Physicians at Siteman Cancer Center played an integral role in the development of CAR T-cell therapy. They conducted valuable research and clinical trials that led to the treatment that is available today. What’s more, they continue to study CAR T-cells, searching for new and even better ways to help cancer patients.

Who is eligible for CAR T-cell therapy?

At this time, the FDA has licensed CAR T-cell therapy for use in adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma and some types of aggressive B cell lymphoma, and in pediatric patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

However, researchers and physicians are working to develop CAR T-cell therapies for patients with other forms of blood cancer. A form of CAR T-cell therapy for multiple myeloma, which is in clinical trials here at Siteman, is nearing FDA approval.

Active clinical trials are also seeking to apply CAR T and other, even newer forms of T-cell therapy to solid tumor cancers, including non-small cell lung cancer.

Why should I come to Siteman for CAR T-cell therapy?

 Washington University Physicians and scientists at Siteman Cancer Center are passionate about the practice, research, and development of CAR T-cell therapy.

Siteman Cancer Center has been performing CAR T-cell therapy since it first became available in clinical trials. Research conducted here at Siteman even helped CAR T-cell therapy evolve from a theory into reality. It’s no wonder that when the FDA officially approved CAR T-cell therapy for clinical use in 2017, Siteman Cancer Center was one of only 16 facilities worldwide authorized to provide it. Even though CAR T-cell therapy is still very new, the physicians guiding your care at Siteman are some of the most experienced practitioners in the nation.

When you choose Siteman for CAR T-cell therapy, your treatment timeline may proceed more quickly than it would at many other cancer centers. Washington University Physicians and researchers at Siteman recently opened a facility to modify T-cells on our campus, currently the only such facility in the state of Missouri. Instead of having to wait for several weeks while their cells are sent away to a laboratory, modified, and returned, Siteman patients on certain clinical trials will be able to receive their infusion of CAR T-cells only eight days after the cells were originally collected.

Patients who come to Siteman also benefit from laboratory research and clinical trials conducted by their own oncologists. The Washington University Physicians and researchers who staff Siteman Cancer Center continue to search for ways to make CAR T-cell therapy better. There are many exciting studies and trials underway at Siteman that can bring advantages to patients.

  • Physicians and researchers at Siteman are developing generic forms of CAR T-cells that could be administered to any patient. This would eliminate the time spent removing and modifying a patient’s own T-cells and allow treatment to commence immediately.
  • Clinical trials at Siteman are expanding CAR T-cell therapy to other blood cancers, including non-Hodgkins lympoma and multiple myeloma.
  • Washington University Physicians are studying other forms of CAR T-cells that attack different proteins on cancer cells, expanding the range of CAR T-cell options for patients. In addition, they are exploring alternative ways to modify T-cells that could make them more effective against solid tumor cancers. One novel method, for example, is to equip T-cells with enhanced T-cell receptors, transforming them into “TCR T-cells.” Ongoing clinical trials at Siteman are evaluating TCR T-cells as a line of attack against non-small cell lung cancer and sarcomas.