What Is the CAR-T Therapy Process for Treating Cancer?

What Is the CAR-T Therapy Process for Treating Cancer?

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These days, people who receive a cancer diagnosis often have more options to consider, evaluating with their family and physician. For many, therapies that involve genetics represent a way to help the body heal itself.

Cancer patients who are candidates for treatment that involves helping their immune system address their disease are looking into CAR-T therapy. Researchers, investors, and scientifically curious people are excited about the possibilities too and are devoting more and more attention to approaches to medicine that center around CAR-T.

For people who have limited experience with CAR-T, whether you are a patient or have a loved one who is a patient, a bit of an introduction is in order.

About the CAR-T Therapy Treatment Process

CAR-T refers to chimeric antigen receptor. It’s a relatively new tool in the field of cancer immunotherapy. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, “Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy treats certain cancers by turning your T lymphocytes or T cells into more efficient cancer-fighting machines.”

Essentially, doctors are helping their patients use their immune system to wage war against cancer.

Because CAR-T is still in the earliest phases of use, it has only been applied to fewer than 2,000 individuals to date, with 130 medical centers in the United States being authorized to provide this therapy. Doctors use it for cancers of the blood today. Other treatments with CAR-T may soon be on the horizon.

How Doctors Employ CAR-T as a Therapeutic Approach in the Battle Against Cancer

The process begins by removing the patient’s T cells from a blood sample and then modifying these T cells, as explained by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

T cells are the body’s white cells and are part of the immune system. An active immune system patrols your body, detecting any foreign intruders like cancer. The T cells are looking at and keeping track of proteins known as antigens. Intruder cells have antigens on their surface, which the T cell receptor proteins sense and then block. Your T cells hunt and kill cancer cells before they can cause more damage.

Unfortunately, there is an ongoing battle inside the body. Foreign intruders, like cancer cells, sometimes disguise themselves, hiding from the body’s T cells. But with CAR-T, the T-cells gain extra power and can then detect rogue cancer cells after they’re introduced into the patient’s body.

So, once the T cells are modified outside of the patient’s body, they benefit from the new chimeric antigen receptors used in CAR-T approaches.

Next, a medical professional reinfuses these modified T cells back into the patient’s body. The newly infused receptors can detect and grab onto a specified antigen found on that patient’s tumor cells to kill them off.

Examples of Cancer That Doctors Now Treat with CAR-T Therapy

* Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (relapsed or refractory)

* Follicular lymphoma (relapsed or refractory)

* Multiple myeloma (relapsed or refractory)

* Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (in some cases of relapsed, refractory, or aggressive forms)

This list is just meant to represent what’s happening today in medical science. Ongoing studies are underway to trial CAR-T therapies against other types of solid tumors as well as cancers of the blood.

Going Forward with CAR-T Therapy

Keep in mind that techniques like CAR-T for therapy against diseases are only possible with our abilities to sequence DNA and to adjust T Cells so the body can fight more effectively against targeted cancer markers.

The rise of powerful, massively parallel computers used to manage the large amount of data involved will continue, so we can expect that more therapies will be coming through the pipeline, with faster results, the faster the sequencers and computers become.

While the FDA has authorized CAR-T therapy in a limited number of facilities and tests are ongoing, researchers are now looking to see how chimeric antigen receptor therapies can work to cure brain cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

That’s good news for the patients and their families who are looking to boost their immune systems and fight off disease with a modern, technological-enhanced approach.

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