CAR T-cell Therapy
In May 2021, Baptist Cancer Center became a certified CAR T-cell therapy center. It is one of the only facilities to offer this treatment in the Mid-South. For patients with certain types of leukemia or lymphoma, CAR T-cell therapy offers a greater chance of remission.
What is CAR T-cell therapy?
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is a new form of immunotherapy that uses specially altered cells from the patient to target cancer cells. The immune system is made up of specific cells and organs that protect the body from infection and cancer. Among these are T cells, which hunt down and destroy abnormal cells, including cancer cells. Sometimes, cancer cells find ways to evade the immune system so the immune system needs to be retrained to recognize and attack cancer cells. CAR T-cell therapy is an innovative approach to programming the immune system to attack cancer.
How CAR T-cell therapy works
CAR T-cell therapy at Baptist Cancer Center is a complex, multistep process for patients that includes the following:
Evaluation: Patients undergo a series of tests and screenings to determine if CAR T-cell therapy is an appropriate treatment option.
Collection: T cells are collected from patients through apheresis, a process that withdraws blood from the body and moves it through a cell separator to collect the needed blood components, in this case T cells. The remaining blood components are then returned to the body. The procedure is done in one day at Baptist Cancer Center.
Engineering: T cells are sent to a laboratory where they are genetically engineered to target a specific type of cancer.
Multiplication: The genetically modified T cells are expanded by growing cells in the laboratory until there are millions of them. The process of engineering and growing sufficient quantities of CAR T cells can take a few weeks. When there are enough of them, these CAR T cells are frozen and sent back to Baptist Cancer Center.
Conditioning Therapy: Prior to infusion of CAR T cells, patients may receive chemotherapy for their cancer. This helps to create space in the immune system for the infused CAR T cells to expand and proliferate.
Infusion: When CAR T cells are ready, they are infused in a process similar to a blood transfusion. Patients may receive their CAR T cells in the hospital or in an outpatient clinic. The Baptist Cancer Center care team will decide which approach is best.
Recovery: Patients who receive CAR T-cell therapy have a recovery period of approximately two to three months. During this period, patients will be evaluated for side effects and treatment response. It is not uncommon for patients to be admitted to the hospital during this period to manage complications from treatment. During the first 30 days after CAR T-cell infusion, patients need to remain close to Baptist Cancer Center for regular follow-up care. A nurse navigator can assist in arranging for a place to stay during this time, if needed.
Learn more about CAR T-cell therapy
CAR T-cell therapy can be an effective treatment for some cancers, especially when other forms of treatment are no longer working. For more information, please contact a Baptist Cancer Center team member at 901-226-5151.
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