‘CAR T-cell therapy’ revolutionizing blood cancer treatment

The immunotherapy known as CAR T-cell uses your own immune system to attack the cancer.
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 10:27 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita oncologist Dr. Bassam Mattar says in his 23 years of practicing medicine, he’s never seen anything like it. A revolutionary treatment is giving hope to patients who previously faced likely death sentences.

“On the lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, it has been amazing. I have a bunch of people where I would have sent them to hospice, expected to die within six months. Now up to 50 percent of those people are surviving and probably cured, 48 percent if you want an exact number,” said Dr. Mattar with the Cancer Center of Kansas in Wichita.

The immunotherapy known as CAR T-cell therapy uses your own immune system to attack cancer.

“When we talk about immunotherapy and how it it’s different as a treatment modality it is working with our immune system and teaches our immune system to ramp up. Train it how to fight cancer cells so you don’t the have toxicity and a lot of the side effects that come along with traditional treatments like chemotherapy,” Dr. Christopher Dakhil who works alongside Dr. Mattar at the Cancer Center of Kansas explained.

Here are the basics of how CAR T-cell therapy works:

Doctors take blood from the patient to get T cells. Those patient’s cells are genetically altered to have special receptors called CAR T.

Millions of CAR T-cells are grown in a lab and then infused into the patient. Then they go to work and your own body targets the cancer cells.

Dr. Mattar and Dr. Dakhill said advancements are happening more quickly than ever before, and what treatments like CAR T offer may be just the beginning of more breakthroughs in immunotherapy.

“I wake up every day and I’m not tired because I feel like tomorrow’s better than today, and I can give more. I can provide better care for the patient. It’s still a tough job to do because sometimes we have to give bad news to the young mom and young adult who may be dealing with it and dying from it, but every day is better than yesterday and there is hope,” said Dr. Mattar.

CAR T-cell therapy is approved and used mostly in blood cancers, but promising studies are underway in other types of cancer.

“We’re studying it in other cancers. We’re also studying it in breast cancer, prostate cancer and other cancers, but we’re not there yet,” said Dr. Mattar.

Both doctors said there hasn’t been a more exciting time to work in their field.

“It’s really what keeps us motivated, it’s what gets us out of bed every morning to continue to take care of cancer patients. It can be difficult at times, but when you see those success stories it really does motivate you,” said Dr. Dakhil.

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