CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy in which a patient's own immune cells are harvested, re-engineered and then put back into the body to recognize and kill cancer cells. It involves altering the genes inside T cells (a type of white blood cell that fights infection) to help them attack cancer.
CAR T-cells are a "living drug” in that they can expand inside the body while there is a lot of tumor to reject, and then contract as the tumor is eliminated; this is how a single infusion can produce deep and durable remissions.
CAR T-cell therapy has the ability to eradicate various cancers, including very advanced blood cancers, and to keep the cancer at bay for many years. It is particularly useful for patients who have exhausted standard-of-care treatments and want to lead a normal life again.
In the first part of CAR T-cell treatment, your blood is collected through apheresis (also called leukapheresis). This process separates your T-cells from the rest of the blood. The T-cells are then sent to a lab, where they are engineered by adding a gene designed specifically to attack cancer cells to the CAR receptor. The engineered T-cells are then expanded and shipped back to the hospital, where they are given back to you through an intravenous infusion.
Conditions commonly treated with CAR T-cell therapy include:
New and developing uses for CAR T-cell therapy at Mass General Brigham include:
Because CAR T-cell therapy is a complex treatment, your Mass General Brigham care team will carefully monitor you during your hospital stay for any side effects. We will also provide you and your family with all the support you need before, during and after your infusion.
Each year, thousands of patients from more than 140 countries travel to Mass General Brigham for medical care, second opinions and treatments unavailable anywhere else in the world.
Mass General Brigham is experienced in caring for cancer patients who are traveling great distances to our hospitals in Boston for CAR-T therapy. Your cancer team here and our international patient services team will help you prepare for and plan the appropriate amount of time to stay in Boston for your appointments, treatments and any recovery time. Throughout your care, our clinical team will monitor your well-being and progressions to continuously optimize your treatment plan and symptoms.
You can reach our International Patient Care Team with questions or for help in setting up an appointment with a Mass General Brigham physician who can discuss your treatment options and begin developing a comprehensive treatment plan. We look forward to making your Mass General Brigham experience as healing and stress-free as possible.