What is personalized CAR-T cell therapy?
Over the past several years, cancer researchers have discovered the impact that the immune system can have on treating and preventing cancer. In particular, researchers at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center have identified the effect of T cells, which are responsible for the identification and destruction of abnormal substances, like cancer.
This discovery has led to the implementation of a highly personalized approach known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy, as a treatment option for some cancer patients. This type of immunotherapy treatment removes these vital T cells from the patient, genetically modifies them in the laboratory so they can recognize the patient’s cancer cells, and then are infused directly back into the patient through an IV. Inside the body, these cells can grow, amplifying a potential response.
This treatment allows for the body’s immune system to be super charged with large quantities of CAR-T cells which will seek out and attack cancer cells.
Who can benefit from this new treatment?
Penn’s personalized cellular therapy is approved in the United States for the treatment of patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that is refractory or in second or later relapse.
Similar therapy to treat adults with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma after two or more lines of failed therapy has also been approved by the FDA. This therapy can also treat patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) not otherwise specified, primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL), high grade B-cell lymphoma and DLBCL arising from follicular lymphoma (transformed follicular lymphoma, or TFL).
What should I do if I think I am or a loved one is a candidate for treatment?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) or relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma, you should speak with an oncologist about all options for treatment.
Adults with ALL and large B-cell lymphoma and can call 215-316-5127 from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm ET Monday through Friday, and a dedicated Penn Medicine staff member will help connect you to an oncologist about receiving CAR-T therapy. If you call after hours, please leave a message and a staff member will return your call during operating hours.
If you are calling on behalf of a child with ALL who is between the ages of 3 and 17 years old, please contact the Cancer Immunotherapy Program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) at 267-426-0762 or Oncointake@email.chop.edu.
How can I learn more about CAR-T and make an appointment?
You can learn more about personalized cellular therapy and CAR-T here.
If you are interested in making an appointment to discuss if CAR-T cell therapy is right for you, please call one of the phone numbers listed below.
- For adults 18 years and older: Call the Abramson Cancer Center's Immunotherapy Program at 215-316-5127.
- For children 17 years and younger: Call CHOP's Cancer Immunotherapy Program at 267-426-0762.
Will this work for my type of cancer?
There are a number of ongoing clinical trials at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center that are studying the use of CAR-T cell therapy in B-cell and other cancers.
For additional information on current trials available here, please visit our Clinical Trials website.
Will my insurance cover CAR-T cell therapy?
CAR-T cell therapies that have been approved by the FDA may be covered or reimbursed by your insurance. It is necessary to speak with your insurance provider prior to receiving treatment to understand your coverage.
Our clinical care team is here to support you as you discuss the cost and coverage with your insurance provider.
If you would like more information on our financial assistance program, please send an email to ACCFinancialAdvocacy@uphs.upenn.edu with your name, telephone number and a brief description of your diagnosis. One of our Abramson Cancer Center Advocacy Staff Members will get back to you within two business days.
What are questions I should ask my or my loved one’s oncologist?
- How is the treatment given and what is the procedure like?
- Is a hospital stay required before, during or after treatment?
- How many treatments are needed and how long will they take to be given?
- What are the risks and side effects of treatment?
- Is there a cost for treatment or is this covered by insurance?
- What are the alternatives?
- What are the chances of remission or cure?