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Activating T Cells to Target CLL

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Published on March 9, 2020

Key Takeaways

“Unfortunately, the cancer has learned to go around the immune system, and so this is to try to get back and harness it again, because it is very powerful,” says Dr. Danielle Brander, explaining how CAR T-cell therapy works and the theory behind using a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Dr. Brander, a chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) expert from Duke Cancer Institute, explains how T cells are removed from the body and re-engineered to become CAR-T cells, and how they know which cells to target when they are reintroduced into the patient’s bloodstream. Watch now to learn from a CLL expert.

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Transcript | Activating T Cells to Target CLL

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

Dr. Brander, let’s see if I get it right, just so our audience understands—CAR T. So, basically, our T cells are part of our immune system, and what we’re doing with CAR T is basically activating those T cells so that they can target the CLL we have. So, you need to take cells out, manipulate them in the lab, a few weeks later put them back in. Now, they’re activated T cells that say, “Where’s the CLL?” and go after it. That’s the idea, right?

Dr. Brander:               

It is. And some might be familiar, outside of CLL there are, of course, studies looking for CAR T, for other cancers, other lymphomas. So, part of it is, when you take your own T cells out, and they’re manufactured to attack it, what are they going after to attack? So, sometimes patients will come across different studies or different targets, and that’s really what are you manufacturing them to go against. And, for CLL, there are certain markers, and that’s how the cells are designed to try to go back in and attack the specific cancer. 

Andrew Schorr:                      

Very specific. And, of course, your T cells, your immune system, activating your immune system to do what maybe it missed the first time around, right? To spot those aberrant CLL cells and kill them. 

Dr. Brander:                

That is exactly correct. We think that, in part because our immune systems are affected by cancer, the cancer, unfortunately, tricks the immune system sometimes into not going after the cancer cells. Because our body, probably, over the years does find early cells that could become a cancer, and it gets rid of them. But at some point, and for patients, unfortunately, the cancer has learned to go around the immune system. And, so, this is to try to get back and harness it again, because it is very powerful. Not just for getting rid of infections, but probably, over our lifetimes getting rid of a lot of cells that could have become cancer. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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