CAR T-Cell Therapy
“This is really a new era in cancer medicine. It is very exciting. We’re finding that we can manipulate the immune system to do a lot of the work.”
Stephanie Williams, MD, division chief, adult blood and marrow transplant program, Spectrum Health Cancer Center
This breakthrough in the fight against cancer uses your own white blood cells to seek out and destroy cancer cells. It’s called CAR T-cell therapy, an FDA-approved immunotherapy for adults with certain types of blood cancers that have not responded to traditional cancer treatments.
Spectrum Health is one of the select medical centers in the United States to lead this treatment and based on promising – and, in some cases, remarkable – results. We are the only Cancer Center in the region to offer CAR T-cell therapy for patients with refractory or relapsed leukemia or lymphoma.
We’re proud to offer eligible patients leading-edge, responsive and personalized treatment that’s close to home.
What is CAR T-cell therapy?CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) T-cell therapy is an emerging form of cancer immunotherapy that uses your body’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells with minimal damage to healthy cells.
Is it for me?If at least two other kinds of treatments have failed, ask your provider if CAR T-cell therapy is right for you based on your type of cancer.
How does it work?CAR T cells are created by collecting your own white blood cells (through a process called “leukapheresis”), isolating the T cells, then modifying them by adding the CAR gene. Your new CAR T cells are added back into your bloodstream during a one-time infusion. You will need three days of chemotherapy to prepare your body for the infusion.
What happens after the infusion?Your provider will order blood tests to monitor your progress as well as any potential side effects following the infusion.
What are the side effects?
Side effects can be significant, but are typically manageable and resolve in most patients. Talk with your provider.
Side effects may include but are not limited to the following:
- Low blood counts from the conditioning chemotherapy
- Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) which may include fever, fast heart rate, low blood pressure and low blood oxygen
- Neurological effects including confusion, tremor or difficulty speaking
Will my treatment be covered by insurance?
Everyone’s coverage is different. We have dedicated financial counselors who can help you navigate the insurance and financial side of treatment, and evaluate your options.
How successful is CAR T-cell Therapy?
Early trials for this type of immune therapy have found high success rates. In a clinical study of patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma who had failed other treatments, the treatment was shown to help 51% (52 out of 101) achieve complete remission, and 21% (22 out of 101) achieved a partial remission. People generally responded to treatment within 1 month (range: 0.8-6.2 months). For those who achieved a complete remission, the response is generally ongoing.
Report on immune therapy treatment is hailed as a “major advancement."