What to Expect from CAR T-Cell Therapy

Children approved for CAR T-cell therapy at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh will go through the following steps of the treatment process:

1. Blood Cell Collection

The first step of the CAR T-cell therapy process is leukapheresis.

This means we collect white blood cells (including T-cells) from your child.

2. Cell Modification in the Lab

  • Our team sends the collected cells to the engineering lab.
  • In the lab, technicians genetically alter the blood cells to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface.

3. Growth of Altered Cells

  • Lab techs grow the genetically altered T-cells, making millions of them.
  • The lab freezes the multiplied cells and ships them back to us at Children’s.

This step of the CAR T-cell treatment process takes about two to three weeks.

4. Chemo

A few days before your child's hospital admission for infusion, he or she will have conditioning chemotherapy.

This step improves the ability of the infused CAR T-cells to expand and multiply.

5. Inpatient Infusion and Hospital Stay

When it's time for infusion, we'll:

  • Admit your child to UPMC Children’s Hospital. He or she will need to stay with us for one to two weeks.
  • Infuse the CAR T-cells back into your child's bloodstream in one treatment, like a blood transfusion.
  • Closely watch for any side effects of treatment.

6. Recovery After CAR T-Cell Therapy

  • The risk and recovery period after CAR T-cell therapy is about two to three months in most cases.
  • You'll need to stay close to Children's for the first 30 days, as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Find short-term housing near UPMC Children's.
  • During this time, we'll check your child's treatment response. We'll also check for and treat any side effects, which can be severe.

Learn more about blood disorder and cancer care at Children's.

Refer a Patient for CAR T-Cell Therapy

To refer a patient for CAR T-cell therapy at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, call 412-692-6740.