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Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell Therapy

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is a new treatment for some types of leukemia and lymphoma.

How CAR T-cell Therapy Works

CAR T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy called “adoptive T-cell immunotherapy.” Immunotherapy uses a person’s own immune cells to fight cancer. CAR T-cell therapy reprograms the genetics of a person’s immune cells to find and attack cancer cells throughout their body. 

The person’s T-cells (a type of white blood cell) are removed and taken to a laboratory. There, technicians change the T-cells so they will target and attack cancer cells. The changed cells, called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells, are grown in large numbers and then infused back into the patient.

CAR T-cell therapy is called a “living therapy.” That is because the CAR T-cells go on to multiply in the body and continue fighting the cancer. They may even continue to grow and work over time. This is why patients typically need only one CAR T-cell infusion.

Visit the Canadian Cancer Society to watch a video about how CAR T-cell therapy works.

Getting CAR T-cell Therapy in Canada

The process to produce and deliver CAR T-cell therapy is complex. While Ontario is building capacity for CAR T-cell therapy, the province can now treat a limited number of patients from Ontario, and other provinces and territories.

Ontario patients

Talk to your healthcare team to see if you may be eligible for CAR T-cell therapy. If this is an appropriate therapy for you, your healthcare team will submit a request to enrol you for the treatment.

Patients from outside of Ontario

If CAR T-cell therapy is not yet available in your home province or territory, talk to your healthcare team to see if you may be eligible for this therapy in another province.

Patients from all provinces and territories

Ask your healthcare team whether any clinical trials would be right for you.