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About CAR T-Cell Therapy for Childhood Leukemia and Lymphoma

  • CAR T-cell therapy is a promising new treatment for some of the most challenging childhood leukemia and lymphoma cases. The immunotherapy treatment uses the body's T cells, a type of immune system cell, to eliminate cancer cells.

    Researchers and physicians at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center are undertaking leading-edge research to advance CAR T-cell therapy in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment and childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment.

    CAR T-Cell Therapy for Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

    KYMRIAH® is a form of CAR T-cell therapy, and is approved by the FDA as the standard of care for some forms of childhood ALL including relapsed ALL.

    Find out more about how we treat childhood ALL.

    CAR T-Cell Therapy for Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

    We use KYMRIAH to treat children and young adults with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphomas, including:

    Read more about how we treat childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

    How CAR T-Cell Therapy Works

  • This video describes the eight steps of the CAR T-cell therapy process.


  • CAR T-cell therapy uses genetically engineered cells to attack cancer cells. The process includes:

    1. We examine your child to see if KYMRIAH, the FDA-approved form of CAR T-cell therapy, is a safe option. A specialist will look at your child's medical history, general health, and see how well their heart, lungs, and nervous system work.
    2. If the therapy is right for your child, we will collect your child's T cells through apheresis, a procedure that removes blood cells from the body. We may need to place a central line (catheter) to help collect your child's T cells. Your child will have general anesthesia (go to sleep) and have the line placed in the operating room.
    3. The collected T cells are transferred to a processing lab. They are then frozen and shipped to Novartis' cell manufacturing lab. There, the T cells are genetically altered to recognize and destroy cancer cells.
    4. To keep your child's cancer under control while the T cells are processed, your child may need chemotherapy treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's or your primary hospital.
    5. When we receive your child's engineered cells, we keep them frozen until your doctor says your child is ready for treatment. When your child is ready, we will admit them to the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. There, your child will have six days of preparation chemotherapy before the engineered T cells are given intravenously (through an IV line), like a blood transfusion.
    6. Your child will stay in the hospital for an average of 30 days so that we can watch for any side effects.