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CAR-T cell binding to a tumor cell

CAR-T Therapy: The Future of Lymphoma & Leukemia Treatment?

Jul 19, 2019

At the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, patients have the opportunity to participate in leading-edge research through clinical trials. These studies often focus on experimental treatments for specific cancers, and two types of cancer, lymphoma and leukemia, are some of the main focuses of the Cancer Cell and Gene Therapy Program

Engineering to a T

The average immune system can neutralize tumor cells to an extent. The body creates a variety of white blood cells called T cells, each only being able to identify and eradicate one type of invader. If a tumor-recognizing T cell encounters a tumor cell, it attaches to it and releases cytotoxins that neutralize the dangerous cell. The average body regularly produces T cells, but there typically aren’t enough tumor-recognizing ones in the body to completely eradicate the cancer.

Many of the ongoing clinical trials explore using engineered T cells to amplify the body’s natural immune response to cancer cells. Using either patient or donor stem cells, researchers create manufactured T cells that last longer than their naturally occurring counterparts to supplement the body’s existing supply. 

These engineered T cells express a type of protein called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). The CAR protein allows these cells to recognize and bind to a protein in tumor cells. Researchers refer to these engineered cells as CAR-T cells.

As part of the clinical trial, the patient then receives an injection containing millions of CAR-T cells with the hopes they will attach to and eradicate tumor cells, allowing the patient to achieve remission. 


Hope for Cancer Patients

The first trial derived promising outcomes. According to Carlos Ramos, MD, physician at the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy who conducted Phase 1, “Six out of nine patients had positive results, that is complete responses, in this clinical trial.” 

The response rate Phase 1 trials typically achieve is around 10% at most. “We still don’t know if this approach can cure patients with this type of cancer, but the results are very encouraging. A Phase 2 trial would help determine that,” says Ramos. 

If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, learn about the available opportunities at the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Share your thoughts with your CHI St. Luke’s Health oncologist, who can help you determine if participation is the right option for you. 

Dan L Duncan Cancer Center Annual Report 2019 | Cancer Cell and Gene Therapy Program
National Cancer Institute | Hematopoietic Stem Cell
American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy | Gene and Cell Therapy FAQ's
Baylor College of Medicine | CARPASCIO Study (H-33133)
NCBI | Helper T Cells and Lymphocyte Activation
ASU Ask a Biologist | T-Cells