What Happens in CAR T-Cell Therapy?
First, doctors collect immune cells called T cells from your blood. These cells are genetically engineered to make a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). CARs seek proteins on the surface of cancer cells and attach to them.
Technicians multiply these engineered immune cells in a lab until there are millions of them. Your doctor puts them back into your body through an IV, where they seek out and kill cancer cells. CAR T cells can stay alive in your body and keep attacking cancer cells for many years.
How Well Does It Work?
Clinical trials for multiple myeloma so far have been small, but promising. One study of a CAR T-cell therapy included 21 people who had already tried an average of seven other treatments. Eighteen of them got a higher dose of the treatment. About 56% of those 18 people had complete remissions, meaning there was no longer any sign of their cancer.
Another study included 35 people with multiple myeloma. About 94% showed signs of remission after CAR T-cell therapy.
These two studies are the earliest types of clinical trials, called phase I, which are done to check the treatment's safety, not how well it works. More studies that are longer and have larger groups of people are needed to show this treatment works for multiple myeloma and how long people live who get it.
One of the most common side effects from CAR T-cell therapy is called cytokine release syndrome (CRS). It's an immune response that's triggered by a flood of immune system chemicals called cytokines into your body.
CAR T-cell therapy can also cause side effects like:
- Trouble speaking
- Balance problems
People who've been treated with CAR T-cell therapy for multiple myeloma have not had these side effects.
If you have CAR T-cell therapy, your doctor will monitor you for about 2 to 3 months afterward while you recover. You'll be checked often for side effects and to see if the treatment is helping. Source WebMD.com
How to Talk to Your Doctor About CAR T-Cell Therapy
Ask your doctor if you qualify for a CAR T-cell therapy trial. Usually you'll need to have tried several other multiple myeloma treatments first.
Before you join a clinical trial, ask the study doctor:
- What is the purpose of this trial?
- How might this treatment help me?
- How long will the trial last?
- What kinds of tests and treatments are involved?
- What are the possible side effects?
- How do the risks and benefits compare to other multiple myeloma treatments?
- Will I have to pay any of the costs for tests, treatments, or for travel to the trial site?