What Is CAR T-Cell Therapy?

CAR T therapy, or chimeric antigen receptor therapy, is an immunological treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to destroy cancerous cells. Normally, a person’s T cells are responsible for detecting noncancerous "intruders," such as viruses and bacteria. However, by genetically modifying these cells to recognize the unique proteins that are present on the surface of cancer cells, it’s possible to program them to destroy cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

Moffitt treats its 500th patient with CAR T therapy
Moffitt treats its 500th patient with innovative CAR T therapy. Learn More

Who should consider CAR T-cell therapy?

CAR T therapy is currently only approved for patients with certain types of blood and bone marrow cancers. There are strict requirements in place that a patient must meet before he or she can begin CAR T therapy. The requirements differ depending on the specific type of cancer a patient has. Generally speaking, a patient may be eligible for CAR T therapy if other forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant, have been unsuccessful or were not an option.

How is CAR T therapy administered?

The first step in the treatment process is T cell retrieval. A sample of a patient’s blood is taken and sent to a lab, where the T cells are separated from the rest of the blood. From there, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), a special receptor that binds to certain proteins on cancer cells, is added to these T cells. The T cells are then duplicated and prepared for treatment. To prepare the body to accept CAR T cells, a few rounds of chemotherapy may be needed. Shortly after this, the CAR T cells are infused back into the patient.

CAR T therapy is a one-time treatment. Once the CAR T cells are reintroduced to the patient’s body, they can immediately start seeking out and attacking cancer cells. Several studies have also found that CAR T can be especially effective in patients who have stopped responding to all other therapies.

leukemia cancer cell being attacked by CAR T-cells
Colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a leukemia cancer cell (red) being attacked by CAR T-cells (orange).

What types of cancer does CAR T therapy treat?

Moffitt Cancer Center is among a select few cancer centers that has oncologists who are certified to administer CAR T therapy. We offer this option as a treatment for:

  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
  • Mantle cell lymphoma
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Follicular lymphoma
  • Transformed follicular lymphoma
  • Primary mediastinal B cell lymphoma

Moffitt’s researchers are continuing to study other diagnoses that could potentially benefit from CAR T therapy, as well as other immunotherapies that can help harness the power of the body’s own immune system in the fight against cancer. Our scientific breakthroughs have not only earned us recognition as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, but also allow us the unique opportunity to provide each patient with an innovative treatment plan that is carefully tailored to the specifics of his or her diagnosis.

To learn more about CAR T therapy, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online to request an appointment.


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