CAR T-cell therapy harnesses the immune system to fight cancer

A cancer breakthrough is making news and helping people from Kansas City, across the country and around the world. The University of Kansas Cancer Center is among the world’s first providers of FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy and one of few centers in the country to offer all three FDA-approved CAR T-cell treatments. This precision cancer therapy offers new potential to cure cancers and save lives.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy uses re-engineered versions of a patient’s cells to find cancer cells and defeat them. Here’s how it works:  

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T cells (integral to the immune system) are extracted from the patient. 
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In a lab, scientists modify the T cells to detect cancer cells.
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While the T cells multiply in the lab, the patient receives chemotherapy to reduce the number of cancer cells. 
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The re-engineered T cells are returned to the patient’s bloodstream, supercharged to seek and destroy remaining cancer cells.


Key Terms


You’ll hear a wealth of new vocabulary as you become familiar with CAR T-cell therapy. A few of the most commonly used terms include:

  • •  Immunotherapy: A form of treatment that uses an individual’s own immune system to fight disease
  • •  Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy: A type of immunotherapy that involves re-engineering a patient’s own T cells to recognize and attack cancer cells
  • •  Engineered cell therapy: Treatment using genetically modified T cells
  • •  Infusion: The administration of fluids through an individual’s vein and into the bloodstream
  • •  Leukapheresis: The process of removing an individual’s blood to isolate and collect white blood cells

Contact a Nurse Navigator

Call 913-588-9187, or toll-free, 844-323-1227.

YESCARTA™ for Lymphoma

The FDA recently approved the use of the YESCARTA CAR T-cell therapy for treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The University of Kansas Cancer Center – one of just 70 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the country – is among the first sites selected to offer this groundbreaking immunotherapy treatment.

YESCARTA – axicabtagene ciloleucel for adult patients with refractory, aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma – is a revolutionary form of precision cancer therapy. Personalized for each patient, it is made from the individual’s own white blood cells. These T cells are extracted from the body, modified in a manufacturing center, and then returned to the body, re-engineered to recognize and destroy cancer cells. 

As home to the region’s largest and most experienced blood and marrow transplant (BMT) and cellular therapeutics program, The University of Kansas Cancer Center is uniquely qualified to serve as one of the first providers of YESCARTA treatment. Our multidisciplinary care team is highly versed in the specific needs of patients with blood disorders and the care options and risks involved in treating them. We offer the significant infrastructure required to deliver and manage this complex treatment. 

Our BMT and cellular therapeutics program offers more than 40 years of leadership and compassionate care and has exhibited 800 percent growth in the last decade. It represents a powerful foundation on which to advance expertise as immunotherapy increasingly takes its position among frontline cancer treatment options. 

We are pleased to provide resources to help inform you as you explore this critical possibility in your cancer care and to earn your confidence as you consider our team and program. 

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KYMRIAH™ for Lymphoma and ALL

The University of Kansas Cancer Center is among the first approved sites to offer newly FDA-approved KYMRIAH CAR T-cell treatment. This precision cancer therapy is indicated for:

  • •  patients up to 25 years old who have relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • •  Adult patients with relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma

KYMRIAH (tisagenlecleucel) is CAR T-cell therapy in which the patient’s own white blood cells are extracted, altered in the laboratory, and reinfused in to the patient’s body to attack cancer cells. Before receiving the manufactured cells, patients may receive chemotherapy to prepare their bodies for the infusion.

As with any complex treatment intended to destroy the most aggressive cancers, side effects may occur. These can include breathing difficulty, fever, chills, confusion, nausea, and muscle pain. As such, it is critically important to obtain treatment at a highly qualified cancer center with the experience, staff and infrastructure necessary to provide complete care before, during and after the transplant itself.