Cancer: Meet T-cells.

T-Cells In Cancer Therapy

Using a patient’s own immune system is becoming a more important focus for study in cancer treatment.

Let’s talk T-cells. They are a type of white blood cells that are targeted to fight infection and diseases, particularly pathogens linked to cancer.

When a T-cell recognizes something as a threat, like a cell infected by a virus, it attacks and destroys it. The T stands for thymus, the organ in which these cells mature.


Such treatment is considered specifically important in the study of the treatment of leukemia because the disease “relapse occurs in 30 to 50 percent of patients and remains unacceptably high,” according to the American Society of Hematology.

Researchers say that leukemia specific T-cells that are genetically changed have proven successful in trials against leukemia.

Childhood Cancer

Children with certain cancers and other disorders of the blood and immune system also may benefit from this therapy, known as cellular immunotherapy.

CAR T-cell therapy.

T-Cells are important for CAR T-cell therapy, which directs the T-cells to cancer cells. It is a type of immunotherapy. T cells are collected from a patient, and then T cells are sent to a laboratory or a drug manufacturing facility, where CAR T cells are then infused into a patient. 

Technically, after what is known as reengineering, the T cells become known as chimeric antigen receptor CAR T cells. CAR T cells thwart the cancer cells and stay in the body after the infusion.  Early development of CAR T-cell therapies has focused largely on acute lymphoblastic leukemia, (ALL) the most common cancer in children.

“Once we infuse them back into a patient’s body through an IV, they begin multiplying and attacking tumor cells,” says Sattva Neelapu, MD, in an MD Anderson Cancer Center report at the University of Texas.  “Eventually, the hope is that CAR T-cell therapy could replace chemotherapy and stem cell transplants altogether. But first we have to show that it’s at least as effective or more effective than those therapies.

Changing Cancer Treatment

While surgery, chemotherapy and radiation were at the core of cancer treatment for years, immunotherapy that buttresses the patient’s own immune system to attack tumors as gained ground as a key element in cancer treatment.

CAR T-cell therapy has been among the most distinguished in clinical development.

“Until recently, the use of CAR T-cell therapy has been restricted to small clinical trials, largely in patients with advanced blood cancers,” said the National Cancer Institute. “But these treatments have nevertheless captured the attention of researchers and the public alike because of the remarkable responses they have produced in some patients – both children and adult – for whom all the treatments have stopped working.”

FDA approvals

In 2017, two CAR T-cell therapies were approved by the Food and

Drug Administration; one for the treatment of children with ALL, and others for adults with advanced lymphomas. That includes patients with adult B-cell, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

More study ahead

Researchers caution that, “in many respects, it’s still early days for CAR T cells and other forms of ACT, including questions about whether they will ever be effective against solid tumors like breast and colorectal cancer,” the NCI says. – Joe Cantlupe, HealthDataBuzz. Contributed to


UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.  CAR T-Cell Therapy at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. 2018.  Retrieved from:

Dolnikov, A, Sylvie, S, et al. Stem Cell Approach to Generate Chimeric Antigen Receptor Modified Immune Effector Cells to Treat Cancer. Blood Journal. 124-2437. American Society of Hematology. 2014.  

Leukemia & Lymphom Society. 2018. Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-Cell Therapy. 2018. Retrieved from:

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 2018. Cancer Immunotherapy Program. Retrieved from:

Cynthia DeMarco. MD Anderson Cancer Center. The University of Texas. 2018.–9-things-to-know.html

National Cancer Institute. CAR T Cells: Engineering Patients’ Immune Cells to Treat Their Cancers. 2018. Retrieved from:

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