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CAR T-cell therapy is a worldwide cancer breakthrough. And UChicago Medicine is the first to offer it in Chicago.

CAR T-cell Therapy

A revolutionary cancer breakthrough. UChicago Medicine is the first place in Chicago to offer it.

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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.

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How Does CAR T-cell Therapy Work?

CAR T-cell therapy is a multi-step process that takes place over several weeks.

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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

Adult Care

Michael R. Bishop, MD
Director, Adult Cellular Therapy Program

Justin Kline, MD

Satyajit Kosuri, MD

Peter Riedell, MD

Sonali M. Smith, MD

Wendy Stock, MD



Pediatric Care

John M. Cunningham, MD
Director, Pediatric Cellular Therapy Program

James LaBelle, MD, PhD

Gabrielle Lapping-Carr, MD

Jennifer McNeer, MD, MS

Michele Nassin, MD

UChicago Medicine Cancer Care Locations

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