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Yescarta, a form of CAR T therapy which utilizes the body’s own immune system to fight disease, was recently approved by the FDA. "The results have been remarkable," said Moffitt Cancer Center’s Frederick Locke, M.D., the co-lead investigator of the pivotal ZUMA-1 clinical trial that tested the new therapy. "Thanks to this new therapy, patients are now in remission for months or in some cases more than a year later, and are enjoying their lives. This is a huge breakthrough." 

Dr. Locke answers some frequently asked questions about CAR T therapy.  

1. What is CAR T therapy?

CAR T is a personalized therapy using the patient’s own immune cells, or T cells, to fight cancer. For this treatment, a patient’s T cells are removed from their blood and sent to a lab where the cells are genetically modified to better enable them to identify and attack cancer cells. Scientists add a chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR, to each T cell. These CARs act like a GPS that directs the T-cells to target and attack cancer. When the CAR-T cells are infused back into the patient's blood, the immune cells seek and destroy the cancer.  

2. What CAR T therapy treatments are available and who are they designed to treat?

Right now, CAR T therapy is FDA approved for adults with aggressive B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who are not responding to chemotherapy and pediatric and young adult patients (up to 25 years of age) with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who are not responding to chemotherapy. Moffitt has many immunotherapy trials and cellular immunotherapy trials treating other cancers. 

3. What are the risks of CAR T therapy?

CAR T therapy is not without side effects. Some patients may experience high fevers and confusion as their immune system ramps up to fight the cancer cells. Those side effects are manageable under the proper care. Although side effects can be severe in some cases, they typically subside within a few weeks to a month following treatment. 

4. Are there other CAR T therapy clinical trials available?

There are CAR T cell therapy clinical trials for other types of blood cancers including lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma. Moffitt has clinical trials using other cellular immunotherapies, or drug-based immunotherapies, for many solid tumors. This includes T cell receptor (TCR) trials and Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocyte (TIL) trials. In addition, Moffitt researchers are working in the laboratory to create new and better CAR T and TCR (T cell receptor) therapies for solid tumors and other blood cancers.

If you’d like to learn more about CAR T therapy, you can contact Moffitt Cancer Center at 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.