CAR T Cell Therapy: Medical Breakthrough

  Feb 12, 2024

CAR T Cell Therapy


What is CAR T cell therapy?

CAR T cell therapy is a form of cancer immunotherapy that modifies a patient's T cells to better recognize and attack cancer cells. This is achieved by engineering the T cells to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that can specifically target antigens present on the surface of cancer cells.

How does CAR T cell therapy work?

The process involves three key steps:

1. Collection: T cells are collected from the patient's blood.
2. Engineering: These T cells are genetically modified in a laboratory to express CARs on their surface.
3. Infusion: The engineered T cells are then infused back into the patient, where they seek out and destroy cancer cells by recognizing specific antigens on the cancer cells' surface.

What types of cancer can CAR T cell therapy treat?

Initially, CAR T cell therapy has shown promising results in treating certain blood cancers, including:

Relapsed and/or refractory aggressive Bcell lymphomas
Mantle cell lymphoma
Indolent Bcell malignancies

What are the success rates of CAR T cell therapy?

Success rates can vary depending on the type of cancer being treated. According to a study published in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology in 2023, complete response rates were reported as:

40–54% for aggressive Bcell lymphomas
67% for mantle cell lymphoma
69–74% for indolent Bcell malignancies

Is CAR T cell therapy available in India?

Yes, as of October 2023, India's Central Drugs Standard Control Organization approved NexCAR19, marking India's first approved CART cell therapy. This approval paves the way for the treatment of certain types of cancer with this innovative therapy in India.

What are the side effects of CAR T cell therapy?

While CAR T cell therapy can be highly effective, it can also cause side effects, some of which can be severe. Common side effects include cytokine release syndrome (CRS), neurological effects, fatigue, fever, and infection risk. The severity of side effects varies, and patients are closely monitored during treatment.

Understanding T Cells: The Pillars of Immunity

T cells, or T lymphocytes, are a critical component of the immune system, playing a central role in the body's defense against infections and cancer. They originate from stem cells in the bone marrow but mature in the thymus, hence the name "T" cells. T cells can be classified into several types, each with unique functions in immune response:

1. Helper T Cells (Th cells): These cells assist other cells in the immune system by releasing cytokines, which stimulate the action of other immune cells. Helper T cells are pivotal in activating and directing the immune response.

2. Cytotoxic T Cells (Tc cells): Also known as killer T cells, these cells are responsible for directly attacking and killing infected cells or cancer cells. They recognize cells with foreign or abnormal antigens and induce apoptosis, or cell death, effectively eliminating the threat.

3. Regulatory T Cells (Treg cells): These cells play a role in immune tolerance and prevent autoimmune diseases by suppressing immune responses that are mistakenly directed against the body's own cells.

4. Memory T Cells: After an infection, some T cells become memory cells that persist longterm. These cells can quickly expand and mount an effective response upon reexposure to the pathogen they recognize, providing immunity against future infections by the same pathogen.

T Cells in CAR T Cell Therapy:

In CAR T cell therapy, the pivotal role of T cells is harnessed and enhanced. By genetically engineering T cells to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), these cells are equipped with the ability to specifically target and eliminate cancer cells. This process transforms the T cells into powerful agents against cancer, capable of recognizing and attacking cancer cells based on specific antigens presented on their surfaces. The success of CAR T cell therapy in treating certain types of cancer underscores the potential of leveraging the immune system's natural capabilities in novel and powerful ways.



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