CAR T-Cell Therapy for Children
A promising treatment, known as chimeric antigen receptor or CAR T-cell therapy, is available at American Family Children's Hospital for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that either did not respond to standard therapy or has relapsed a second time.
CAR T-cell therapy "supercharges" the child’s own infection-fighting white blood cells (called T cells) to seek out and destroy leukemia cells that display a specific protein marker on their cell surface.
The child’s own T cells are removed from the blood and sent to a processing center for treatment and then shipped back to American Family Children's Hospital, where the child receives the "supercharged" T cells through infusion.
What is CAR T-cell therapy and why does it show promise?
There are several forms of CAR T-cell therapy. This one, specifically for children, is a new breakthrough in cancer treatment that "supercharges" the child's own infection-fighting T cells (white blood cells) so they can find and destroy leukemia cells. During clinical trials of CAR T-cell therapy, 83 percent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) went into complete remission after treatment.
University of Wisconsin pediatric cancer researchers at American Family Children's Hospital have been instrumental in testing CAR T-cell therapy in preclinical studies and in multi-center clinical trials.
What type of childhood cancer is being treated with CAR T-cell therapy?
CAR T-cell therapy is now available for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that either relapsed a second time or did not respond to standard treatment.
Is CAR T-cell therapy related to immunotherapy?
Yes, CAR T-cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy – a new type of cancer treatment that uses the patient's own immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells.
What steps are involved in CAR T-cell therapy?
- We collect the child's T cells. T cells, a type of white blood cells, are removed from the blood at American Family Children's Hospital. The blood is collected in a manner similar to how a person donates blood. After we remove the T cells, the remaining blood goes back into the child's body. This is done as an outpatient procedure.
- We "supercharge" the T cells. The T cells are shipped to scientists in a laboratory who genetically modify the cells by inserting an antibody-like protein called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) on the surface of the T cells.
- The CAR T cells multiply. CAR T cells multiply in the laboratory until there are hundreds of millions of them. The cells are frozen and returned to American Family Children's Hospital.
- The child receives the CAR T cells. Following a brief course of chemotherapy, we infuse the child's "supercharged" T cells back into his or her bloodstream, where they continue to multiply. The T cells begin to seek out and destroy cancer cells that have the targeted antigen on their surface. This is done as an outpatient procedure.
- We keep a close watch. The child stays in the Madison area for about a month, where we carefully monitor and treat any side effects in the hospital, as needed. Some of these side effects can be serious or life-threatening, but we have been certified to manage these unique complications.
- Potential benefit. CAR T cells can remain in the body and continue to protect the child against recurrence of cancer, bringing long-term remission.
Why choose American Family Children's Hospital?
- We are a pioneer among children's hospitals that have played a leading role in developing new cancer treatments for kids, including CAR T-cell therapy.
- We are one of only 8 worldwide "Pediatric Cancer Dream Team" centers, as chosen by the American Association of Cancer Research, Stand Up to Cancer, and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
- Our research director – Paul Sondel, MD, PhD – was chosen by the National Cancer Institute as the only pediatric oncologist among 50 nationwide cancer researchers to receive a multimillion-dollar "Outstanding Investigator Award."
- We are an inaugural member of the National Cancer Institute-sponsored Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment Network.
- American Family Children's Hospital ranks among the top 20 percent of U.S. children's hospitals for pediatric cancer care, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Dr. Christian Capitini Explains CAR T-cell Therapy Treatment for Children
Why Your Child Should Come to UW Health's American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin