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CAR T Immunotherapy

Engineering the Immune System to Fight Cancer


Author(s)

Joseph DeMasi
School of Arts and Sciences
MCPHS University
joe.demasi@mcphs.edu
Janet A. De Souza-Hart
School of Arts & Sciences
MCPHS University
janet.hart@mcphs.edu

Abstract

This directed case study was written to help students learn about an innovative cancer therapy that harnesses a patient's immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. The critical insight underlying this therapy is to use a cancer patient's own immune cells to target and destroy cancer cells. The process involves the removal of T lymphocytes from a cancer patient's blood stream, which are then genetically engineered to express a novel cell surface protein called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). The approach is known as "CAR T cell therapy." Written as a conversation between a cancer patient and an oncologist, the case details the immunological protein components used to construct the CAR that permit the targeting of cancer cells and the activation of T cells. The case covers the cell biology, biochemistry, and immunology underlying CAR T cell therapies, and is appropriate for an upper-level undergraduate immunology course or a clinical course covering oncology, immunology, or therapeutics.


Objectives

  • Describe the typical interaction between T cells and antigen-presenting cells.
  • Explain the domains of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) and their respective functions.
  • Explain how CARs allow T cells to interact with and attack both cancer cells and normal cells.
  • Apply knowledge of the immune system to current applications of cancer immunotherapies.
  • Understand side effects of immunotherapy treatment and compare this treatment with typical chemotherapy.

Keywords

Immunology; cancer; T cells, immunotherapy; antigen; lymphocytes; CAR; chimeric antigen receptor;

Topical Areas

N/A

Educational Level

Undergraduate upper division, Graduate, Professional (degree program), Clinical education

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Directed, Interrupted

Language

English

Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Biomedical Engineering  |   Biotechnology  |   Cell Biology  |   Medicine (General)  |   Molecular Biology  |  


Date Posted

2/4/2019

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