Until recently, certain diseases that attacked the immune system were difficult or even impossible to fight. But CAR-T, or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell, therapy is a game-changer in the treatment of diseases like acute lymphoblastic leukemia and other immune disorders.
T-cells are part of the body’s immune system. They track down and eliminate abnormal cells, including cancer cells, but they aren’t always strong or efficient enough to get them all. CAR-T modifies those T-cells and makes them stronger and, basically, smarter.
CAR-T in 8 Steps
- Locating patients that can be helped – Not every patient with an immune disorder is a candidate for CAR-T therapy. If DNA modification can help, CAR-T may be discussed as an option. Once a patient is identified as a potential candidate, there is a rigorous screening process that they must go through to ensure this therapy is right for them.
- Placing the line – If you are approved for CAR-T therapy, the next phase is gathering and collecting your T-cells for modification. To do this, a large-bore IV is inserted into your vein to withdraw blood.
- Separating the blood cells – through a process called apheresis, your T-cells are separated from the rest of your cells through a centrifugal machine. This process repeats with your blood being collected until enough T-cells are counted.
- Shipping the cells – After the full apheresis processes, the T-cells are moved to a facility where they will be frozen, packaged, and sent to the lab for the modifications. At that lab, those cells will be analyzed and worked on for slightly under one month. Once the modifications are complete, the new CAR-T cells will be returned and remain frozen until it’s time for them to be used.
- Back to the hospital – When your doctor approves the new CAR-T cells for use, you’ll need to be readmitted into the hospital. Upon readmission, you’ll be evaluated for your overall health to ensure that you are able to handle receiving the new cells.
- Get ready for the new T-cells – Through approximately five days of chemotherapy conditioning, your body will begin to prepare for your new T-cells. The chemotherapy will get rid of bad cells that are currently in your body and make some space for your new cells.
- Infusion – When your body is ready for your new, modified cells, they will be infused into your blood through a small bag.
- Observation time – As with any infusion or procedure, there is a chance that you may have an adverse reaction. With CAR-T cells, this reaction can be severe enough that you will have to be treated or sent to the ICU. This is a common reaction that is expected and the staff is prepared to handle any necessary treatment until you are stable and ready to be released.
CAR-T’s Enhanced Immune System in Action
With CAR-T therapy, treatment for diseases and disorders has jumped the previous standards significantly. Now, your cells can fight back with new and improved modified killer cells that will seek out, hunt down, and destroy any destructive cells they find, helping you to move on to live your best life.