What Is CAR T-Cell Immunotherapy?

T cells are a type of immune cell that finds and kills unhealthy or invading cells such as cancer cells. These T cells find cancer cells by attaching to a specific protein that sticks out of the surface of the cell like an arm.

Sometimes, T cells aren’t strong enough to fight cancer on their own, so CAR T-cell therapy gives a boost to your child’s T cells. Your child’s T cells will be engineered in a lab to include a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that targets a specific protein on the surface of a cancer cell. The CAR T cells are then given back to your child as an infusion, and the cells can track and destroy the cancer cells they were programmed to kill.

Immunotherapy treatments

Currently, immunotherapy treatments are available for certain kinds of leukemia and lymphoma. A clinical trial available only at Stanford is also studying whether CAR T cells are effective in treating diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a type of brain tumor, and spinal diffuse midline glioma (DMG), a spine tumor. Stanford researchers are developing ways to apply immunotherapy to other types of cancer, including other types of solid tumors and brain tumors.