CAR-T therapy is a relatively new treatment, designed to help chemotherapy-resistant cancer patients recover from illness. Currently, there are two types of CAR T cell therapy: autologous, which uses the patient’s own white blood cells, and allogeneic, which uses white blood cells from a healthy donor. Both forms of treatment have proven effective at improving the prognosis for cancer patients, but allogeneic CAR-T therapy has the capability to help more patients in a shorter timeframe. Because white blood cells can be harvested and genetically engineered ahead of time, then stored for future use, allogeneic therapy is available right off the shelf for patients who have too few healthy cells of their own to contribute.
More About CAR-T Therapy for Cancer
CAR-T therapy involves harvesting healthy white blood cells, which are then put through a modification process that turns them into lymphocytes, or T cells. In the body, T cells are white blood cells that contain a T-cell receptor, or TCR, on their surface. When these cells come into contact with a cancerous cell, they connect with that cell and release a deadly cytotoxin which kills it.
Some forms of cancer, such as adult and pediatric leukemia, are marked by a dearth of white blood cells. This means there are too few T cells to fight off the cancer. However, when healthy white blood cells are harvested, either from the patient, or from a healthy donor, they can be genetically modified and a T-cell receptor added. These modified cells can then be released back into the body, where they hunt down and attack cancerous cells.
Advantages of Allogeneic Over Autologous CAR T Cell Therapy
Until recently, scientists have been awed by the ability of CAR T cell therapy to eradicate cancer by taking healthy cells from the patient. However, this new method has several advantages over the old. They include:
- Reduced production time
- Lower cost
- Fewer limitations on gaining healthy cells from an ailing patient
- Ability to harvest and produce more T cells in the same amount of time
Allogeneic CAR T cell therapy is fast becoming the standard for this type of non-invasive, revolutionary treatment, and it has only one drawback in that allogeneic T cells run a higher risk of rejection than cells taken from a patient’s own body. But researchers are working every day to reduce the risks associated with CAR T therapy and to reduce possible side effects, which may be severe.
Types of Cancer That May Be Improved Through CAR T Cell Research
In addition to pediatric and adult leukemia, cancers such as glioblastoma, which is a rare form of brain cancer, may also be improved through CAR T cell therapy. This treatment, so far, is a last-case effort for patients who have not responded to chemotherapy or medication. By using genetically modified white blood cells to fight the infection inside the body, scientists are achieving optimistic outcomes for patients whose prognosis might otherwise be fatal.