Cancer treatment is becoming less about type of the cancer and where it’s located in the body, and more about what’s inside – deep inside – cancer cells that is causing them to misbehave. Changing that bad behavior by sparking the immune system to fight back is the aim of an exciting novel cancer treatment breakthrough, a form of immunotherapy called CAR-T.
CAR-T, or Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cell therapy, is a personalized therapy that involves engineering a patient’s own immune system’s blood cells – arming the cells – to attack cancer cells. During the complex procedure, doctors remove some of the patient’s T-cells, a type of white blood cells, which are then shipped to a cryogenic chamber to be genetically reprogrammed to identify and attack cancer. Weeks later, doctors then infuse the re-engineered cells back into the patient’s body.
Sounds like science fiction. But it’s now a treatment reality for some patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Currently, CAR-T may be available to adult DLBCL patients who have not responded to two or more types of standard therapy.
Because CAR-T’s side effects can be serious, and can include fever and low blood pressure, specially trained medical teams are in place to carefully monitor patients. Early results suggest that CAR-T is one of the most potent therapies ever tested for DLBCL cancer patients.
The Food and Drug Administration first approved the new CAR-T therapy in 2017 for the specific types of lymphoma and leukemia after its promising results during clinical trials.
Earlier this year, Texas Oncology–Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer, in collaboration with Baylor University Medical Center, became the second facility in the state to provide groundbreaking FDA-approved CAR-T therapy for DLBCL cancer. That collaboration also has included numerous clinical trials to test CAR-T therapy.
CAR-T is an example of innovative and promising medical advancements following extensive clinical trials. Research continues, including at Texas Oncology, to examine the effectiveness of the new therapy for other forms of cancer. Through research and patient participation in trials, oncologists are rapidly discovering dramatically better ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent even the most aggressive forms of cancer.
Guillermo Lazo, M.D., is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology—McAllen, 1901 S 2nd Street in McAllen, Texas. To learn more about exciting advancements in cancer treatment, visit www.TexasOncology.com or call 1-888-864-I CAN (4226).