Frequently asked questions about CAR T-cell therapy

Who is eligible for CAR T-cell therapy?

Our doctors conduct tests to determine which patients could benefit from CAR T-cell therapy.

Adults with certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma who have had a relapse or who have received two other kinds of treatment that didn’t work may be eligible for CAR T-cell therapy. Children and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that didn’t respond to therapy or has relapsed a second time may also be eligible for CAR T-cell therapy.

What is CAR T-cell therapy?

CAR T-cell therapy is a way of training a patient’s own immune system to find and kill cancer cells. This is done by collecting some of the patient’s white blood cells, converting them to cancer-fighting cells in a laboratory, and then returning the cells to the patient’s bloodstream.

Does CAR T-cell therapy have side effects?

About half of all CAR T-cell therapy patients experience side effects.

The most common CAR T-cell therapy side effects include:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chills or shaking chills
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Severe nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Severe fatigue or weakness

Where is CAR T-cell therapy available?

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of a limited number of cancer centers that offer CAR T-cell therapy.

Will my insurance pay for this?

This therapy is FDA-approved. University of Iowa Health Care has financial counselors who verify insurance coverage for CAR T-cell therapy and obtain any prior authorizations that may be needed. Once we have your insurance information, we will contact your insurance company for authorization before proceeding with CAR T-cell therapy. The patient will be notified of any potential financial responsibility prior to the collection of T-cells. This will include co-insurance, deductible, and out-of-pocket expected amounts.

Why do I need chemotherapy with CAR T-cell therapy?

Chemotherapy is given so CAR T-cells are not rejected by the patient’s immune system and have the opportunity to survive and multiply in the patient’s blood.

How long will I need to recover after CAR T-cell therapy?

CAR T-cell therapy patients stay in the hospital for at least seven days after receiving treatment. For at least four weeks after leaving the hospital, patients must stay within two hours’ travel time of the hospital and return regularly for followup. Patients are also asked to avoid driving and other potentially dangerous activities for eight weeks after receiving treatment.

Contact us

With its reputation for excellent patient care and a staff that has the expertise to use the most advanced treatments, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of a limited number of cancer centers chosen to offer these two CAR T-cell therapies to patients.

Please contact us for more information or to set up a consultation for CAR T-cell therapy.

Last reviewed: 
May 2018

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