There’s no prescription, no daily dosage.
These drugs are alive. They live inside the body, each created from the patient’s own cells and each tailored to the specific genetics of his or her disease. With CAR-T therapy, we can actually retrain the immune system to fight and defeat mortal diseases. Today, CAR-T therapies are being developed around the world to create living medicines customized to the patient’s own biology.The Heart of the Revolution
The Heart of the Revolution: CAR-T Cell Therapy
The immunorevolution began in 2003 with the mapping of the human genome. For the first time, we knew which genes affected which traits in the body. But actually changing those genes would require something more. Over the next decade, Penn Medicine developed CAR-T cell therapy, a groundbreaking technique for retraining the body’s T cells. CAR-T was first approved for treating leukemia, a type of blood cancer.
Hunting Cancer from the Inside
Cancer spreads quickly for a simple reason: The body can’t see it. Cancer cells start out as healthy cells, so when they mutate, they still look like healthy cells to the immune system. They’re camouflaged. The immune cells never attack.
With CAR-T therapy, we teach immune cells to see. We take some of the body’s T cells (a type of white blood cell) and genetically retrain them to find a specific chunk of biological code —the cancer fingerprint. When the T cells are returned to the body, they hunt down and destroy all cells with that fingerprint. These engineered ‘hunter cells’ live on in the body as a permanent defense long after the cancer is gone.
First developed by Penn Medicine, CAR-T therapy is now in clinical trials around the world in thousands of permutations for hundreds of diseases. At the Abramson Cancer Center alone, clinical trials have already led to groundbreaking, FDA-approved therapies for lymphoma and leukemia. We hope to see similar results soon for glioblastoma, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and HIV.
Although still in its infancy, CAR-T therapy represents a turning point in the history of human medicine, a genuine revolution in our approach to disease.
Welcome to the immunorevolution.
Additional Cutting-Edge Immunotherapy Treatments at Penn
Our dynamic research program is always growing. In addition to CAR-T cell therapy, we focus on other types of immunotherapy research, such as vaccine therapy and checkpoint inhibitors.
Interview with CAR-T Pioneer, Dr. June
Carl June, MD, is one of the pioneers of immunotherapy research, and he leads the team responsible for the historic CAR-T cell therapy FDA approval. Listen to him discuss the journey that led to the first FDA approval of CAR-T cell therapy and how he believes cancer will be treated in the future.
Donate to Support Immunotherapy Research
Our success with CAR-T cell therapy is all thanks to the help we’ve received from our partners, researchers, philanthropists, and fellow cancer visionaries. Donate today, so we can continue creating immunotherapy treatments to put more and more people in remission.