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CAR T-cell Therapy: Expanding Horizon of Oncology Treatment

Healthcare | Mar, 2022

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2020, around 10 million people lost their lives to cancer, and the number is expected to rise to 29.5 million by 2040. Over the years, many conventional treatment approaches have been developed for cancer like chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, radiation therapy, surgery, and more such interventions. However, their limited effectiveness with the heterogeneity of cancer cells has led to a more improved therapeutic approach that enhances the patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells without causing major side effects. Chimeric Antigen Receptor-T cell (CAR-T) therapy has emerged as one of the most promising treatments for cancer patients, which has shown effective and durable clinical responses in recent years. The cell gene therapies support the patient’s immune system and facilitate the elimination of cancer cells from the body.  

How does CAR T-cell Therapy Work?

CAR-T cell gene therapy is a kind of immunotherapy that involves genetically engineered T-cells to strengthen the immune system for fighting against diseases. T-cells are either taken from patients or donors and are then modified in a laboratory to provide them the power to recognize and kill cancer cells. When T-cells are infused into the patient, the cells multiply and stay in the body as “living drugs,” which multiply into hundreds of millions in the patient’s body to target the cancer cells that harbor the foreign antigen on their surfaces. CAR T-cells may help eradicate all the cancer cells and live in the body for months after infusion. This immunotherapy treatment is used for treating acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) in kids and young adults. Many clinical trials are underway to determine its efficacy against different kinds of cancers.

CAR T-cell therapy leverages the natural ability of the body to target and destroy malignant cells. CARs are genetically engineered surface receptors designed to recognize tumor cells as dangerous and bind to antigens found on them. When the extracellular domain binds to a tumor antigen, the CAR is activated, which generates a cytotoxic response and destroys the tumor cells. The CAR extracellular domain consists of tumor-specific monoclonal antibodies, and the intracellular portion consists of the signaling portion of the receptor. Full activation of endogenous T cells requires two signals, one from intracellular signaling and the second from a co-stimulatory domain, and then the CARs work to replicate both. Then, the chimeric CAR molecule integrates the specificity of a monoclonal antibody with the cytotoxic and memory capabilities of endogenous T cells to destroy the cancer cells into the patient’s body.