Supercharging Your Blood Cells to Defeat Cancer
There’s a breakthrough in the fight against cancer, and it’s making headlines around the world. Called CAR T-cell therapy, the treatment supercharges a patient’s white blood cells to seek out and destroy cancer cells. Research at UChicago Medicine played a key role in the development of this exciting new immunotherapy for advanced blood cancers.
Select medical centers in the United States, including UChicago Medicine, led clinical trials of this new treatment for leukemia. After promising — and, in some cases, remarkable — results in adults and children, the FDA has approved CAR T-cell therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (in children and adults up to age 25) and for certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in adults. UChicago Medicine is the first and only certified CAR T-cell treatment center in Illinois.
What Is CAR T-cell Therapy?
CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) T-cell therapy is an emerging form of cancer immunotherapy, which involves supercharging a patient’s T cells to recognize and attack cancer cells.
During clinical trials of CAR T-cell therapy, 70 to 90 percent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) went into remission after this treatment. Forty to 50 percent of patients with certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma experienced complete remission. While it’s too early to say these patients are cured, the results are encouraging for individuals with hard-to-treat (refractory) or relapsed leukemia or lymphoma.
Scott McIntyre was the first patient to receive CAR T-cell therapy at UChicago Medicine. See his story below.
Who Is a Candidate for CAR T-cell Therapy?
The FDA recently approved CAR T-cell therapy for patients with certain types of leukemia and lymphoma who do not respond to standard therapy or who have relapsed after at least two other types of treatment have failed. These conditions include:
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (for young adults age 25 and younger)
- Certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma including:
- Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)
- Primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma
- High grade B-cell lymphoma
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Clinical trials of CAR T-cell therapy are being offered at UChicago Medicine for the following conditions:
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (for adults age 26 and older)
- Mantle cell lymphoma
It is expected that additional clinical trials will open for more types of cancer in the near future.
Our physicians have the experience and expertise to evaluate each patient to determine if CAR T-cell therapy has a high chance for success.
What are the Possible Side Effects of CAR T-cell Therapy?
Forty to 60 percent of patients who undergo CAR T-cell therapy experience side effects. Some of these symptoms can be managed with intravenous fluids and acetaminophen. But CAR T-cell therapy often triggers serious conditions, usually within five days of infusion. These may include:
- Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, shortness of breath and chills
- Racing heart beat
- Drop in blood pressure
- Neurologic conditions, such as headaches and seizures
- Short term memory and cognitive issues
These symptoms are reversible, but may require a stay in an intensive care unit. Researchers are actively studying better ways to reduce the side effects of CAR T-cell therapy.
The CAR T-cell Story: One Year Later
A lifelong Notre Dame football fan's journey as the first UChicago Medicine patient to receive a groundbreaking new cancer immunotherapy.Scott's Story & Video
A Big Win Over Pediatric Leukemia
A game-changing approach trains a young man's immune system to defeat acute lymphoblastic leukemia.Sam's Story & Video
Motivating a Malignant Immune System
After failed chemotherapy treatments, leukemia patient Andrew Parker participated in a CAR T-cell clinical trial at UChicago Medicine.Andrew's Story & Podcast
Cellular Therapy Physician Team
Michael R. Bishop, MD
Director, Adult Cellular Therapy Program
John M. Cunningham, MD
Director, Pediatric Cellular Therapy Program
UChicago Medicine Cancer Care Locations
Request an Appointment
Please complete this secure form to request an appointment with a UChicago Medicine CAR T-cell therapy expert. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule the appointment.
Please note this electronic request form is not for same- or next-day appointments. If you prefer to speak with someone directly, please call 1-844-482-7823. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.