How CAR T-cell therapy works
When prior cancer treatments have failed, patients with two types of blood cancers –B-cell lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma – still have an option at Henry Ford.
CAR T-cell therapy can strengthen the patient’s immune system to out-smart and out-fight cancer cells.
This is how it works:
- T-cells are removed from the patient in a process similar to donating blood. After the cells have been separated from the blood, the blood is immediately returned to the body.
- In the manufacturing laboratory, scientists insert a new gene into the T-cells. The gene contains instructions for the T-cell to make and add a new protein to the surface of the T-cells. That protein is called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). It is designed to find the cancer cells.
- While the CAR T-cells are multiplying in the manufacturing center, the patient remains out of the hospital and may receive a brief course of chemotherapy.
- When millions of CAR T-cells have been grown – this may take a few weeks – the cells are frozen and delivered to the hospital where they are infused back into the patient. The CAR T-cells will continue to multiply in the patient and attack the cancer cells, working as a “living drug.”
Like many other cancer-fighting drugs, CAR T-cell therapy can produce side effects. Our experts will discuss possible side-effects with you prior to your treatment. In certain cases, patients have severe flu-like symptoms caused by the strong action of the T-cells as they fight cancer. Others may experience confusion or additional neurological symptoms that can be reversible.
To monitor patients after therapy is administered, we require that they return to the Henry Ford Cancer Institute and be followed closely and can be admitted to the hospital for two or more weeks. Patients are closely watched in the transplant unit and if needed intensive care unit, and they are given medication for any side effects. This helps patients rest assured that everything possible is being done to manage their care.
Henry Ford’s team approach to CAR T-cell therapy and care
We take a multidisciplinary team approach to planning and managing your CAR T-cell therapy treatment and care to address all your needs.
Our team includes:
- CAR-T cell physicians
- Cancer surgeons
- Transplant coordinators
- Social workers
- Nurse navigators and nurse coordinators
- Financial coordinators to navigate insurance coverage
What to expect at your first appointment:
- You will first meet with a medical oncologist who specializes in leukemia and lymphoma to review your case.
- Our multidisciplinary CAR T-cell team that includes experts from several cancer specialties will then work together to review your bloodwork and imaging to begin treatment planning.
- Our CAR T-cell team’s social workers, psychiatric experts and financial coordinators will meet with you to evaluates any needs you may have from transportation to insurance coverage.
- You will be assigned a nurse navigator who will schedule all of your appointments.
- You will meet with our transplant coordinators.
Our goal is to make the process very easy for our patients, so they can learn more and move forward with CAR T-cell therapy.
By using this highly individualized approach to treat cancers that have been previously resistant to other drugs, our team of experts can give you a fighting chance for remission.