CAR T Cell Therapies Are a Growing Area of Research

CAR T cell therapy

T cell immunotherapy involves engineering a patient’s own cells to recognize a protein present in cancer cells, enabling them to seek out and destroy the cancer.

When people think of treatments for cancer, they likely think of surgery, radiation therapy, and drugs — both traditional chemotherapy and, more recently, targeted drugs. Increasingly, however, cancer therapies may be vaccines, antibodies, or therapies made from whole cells.

Cell therapies, sometimes called “living therapies,” are an especially promising and rapidly growing area of cancer research. One approach that’s been pioneered by Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers, led by investigator Michel Sadelain, is called CAR T cell immunotherapy. This type of targeted immunotherapy aims to boost the immune system by giving immune cells the information they need to better recognize tumor cells as foreign and attack them.

MSK investigator Michel Sadelain coined the term “living therapies.”

The technique involves filtering white blood cells called T cells from a patient’s blood and introducing a new gene into those cells. A disabled virus called a vector is used to carry the gene inside the T cells and insert it into the cells’ genomes.

The gene programs the T cells to make a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), which enables them to recognize a specific protein that’s present in cancer cells. The CAR T cells are then grown in the laboratory and infused back into the patient, where they seek out and destroy the cancer.

CAR T cells help the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

CAR T cell therapy is currently being evaluated in the clinic at MSK for certain types of leukemia and lymphoma. In this approach, T cells are genetically engineered to recognize a protein called CD19, which is found on the surface of blood cells called B cells. In the largest study reported so far, for adult patients with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia — a rapidly progressing form of blood cancer — a report published by MSK researchers last year found that 88 percent of patients responded to the therapy. In late 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration granted MSK Breakthrough Therapy Designation for its CD19 CAR therapy.

CAR therapy is also currently being studied at MSK for the treatment of a type of sarcoma (a cancer of the soft tissues) as well as advanced prostate cancer that has stopped responding to other treatments. Plans are under way to begin trials for other kinds of cancer as well, including tumors of the chest cavitymesothelioma and certain lung and breast cancers — and ovarian cancer.


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Hi, I'm researching for a friend over in the UK, her 9 year old son was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia 4.5 years ago, he received a bone marrow transplant and went into remission. Around a month ago he became unwell and they have now been told he has relapsed.
She's done a lot of reading on immunotherapy, particularly Car-T cell therapy but its not available in the UK. Are there any trials in place at the moment that he could be eligible for?

Dear Sam, we are sorry to hear about your friend’s son’s diagnosis.

Please ask her to contact our International Center, which can answer some of her questions and either arrange for a medical records review by mail or for an in-person appointment with one of our pediatric oncologists. Their email address is [email protected] or for more information about our services for patients who live abroad, please visit

To learn more about pediatric cancer care at Memorial Sloan Kettering, go to Thank you for reaching out to us.

I have gone through chemo for triple negative ductal carcinoma and DO NOT want radiation, I WANT to be treated with T-cell therapy. My uncle is an Oncological Surgeon in NJ and says people are being treated regularly with great success at U Penn already, why is MSK so far behind in offering it as a treatment option to more than a few test subjects? Let's get up to speed here. I respectfully request to be offered this option!!! I can't just keep cutting body parts out and carpet-bombing my body with cancer-causing poisons! That is just so old-school. Please help me out.

Hi Lisa, it’s important to recognize that although they are promising, all CAR T cell treatments are currently considered experimental and are only offered as part of clinical trials. This is true at MSK and other institutions as well.

That said, MSK does currently have a trial evaluating the use of CAR T cells in breast cancer, and has another trial expected to open soon. You can learn more about this research here:…

It’s unclear from your comment whether you’re a current MSK patient. If so, you should speak with your healthcare team about whether these trials — or other studies using immunotherapy — may be right for you. If you are not an MSK patient but would like to make an appointment, you can call 800-525-2225 or go to for more information on making an appointment. Thank you for reaching out.

Are there currently any Cat T clinical studies for CLL?

Dear Kristin, yes, we do have one clinical trial evaluating CAR T cell immunotherapy for people with CLL. This and several other trials for people with this type of leukemia can be viewed here:…. If you have questions about any of these studies or would like to make an appointment with one of our specialists to discuss possible treatment options, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 800-525-2225. Thank you for reaching out to us.

My husband has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 Lymphoma of the liver and spleen. Would he bee a candidate for cart-t cell therapy? The Lymphoma is contained to those 2 organs.

Dear Esther, we’re sorry to hear about your husband’s diagnosis. If he would like to have a consultation at MSK to be evaluated for participation in this trial, you can call 800-525-2225 during regular business hours or go to for more information on making an appointment. Thank you for your comment, and best wishes to you and your family.

Is there any trial for CAR T on a Cholangiocarcinoma patients? In addition, are foreigners allowed to participate in such trial at MSK? thanks, Marink

Dear Marink, we do not currently have a trial evaluating CAR T cell treatment for cholangiocarcinoma, but we do have two other trials for cholangiocarcinoma. You can learn more about them here:…

International patients are able to participate in trials. They need to go through our Bobst International Center. You can learn more at or by emailing [email protected]. Thank you for your comment.

Hello! Is car-t therapy available for AML m5?

CAR T therapy is currently approved only for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in people up to age 25. It is being studied in a number of other cancers, including some solid tumors. MSK does not have any trials evaluating it for AML at this time. Thank you for your comment.

I'm from Phoenix az, what you are offering is amazing, I have endometrial that metastasis to the lungs. Since I'm not able to move, do you have a recommendation (hospital/facility) here in Phoenix AZ or any city in Arizona? That offers the same or really close to what you offer.

Hello, are there any trials underway for rectal cancer?

What is CMML?

CART Cells are targeted toward CD19 of B cells but in other cancers also targeting Bcells can help or what can be the other targts of CART cells

Dear Priyanka, CAR T cells can be designed with many different targets, not just CD19. The hope is that this will ultimately make them effective against a greater number of cancer types. Thank you for your comment.

My husband is 44 and is currently being treated for cancer in Copenhagen, Denmark, but without succes.... Are there any open CAR T cell therapy clinical trials for Histiocytic Sarcoma? Or do you offer any other treatment for this rare cancer? Thank you.

Dear Ditte, we’re sorry to hear about your husband’s diagnosis. If he would like to consult with an expert at MSK you can contact our International Center at [email protected]. You may also want to go to to look for any relevant trials in Denmark. Thank you for your comment and best wishes to both of you.