T Cell Attack: Taking Down Cancer with Immunotherapy

Cell Therapy and Cell Engineering Facility

Investigators are looking for ways to make immunotherapy treatment with CAR T cells more effective.

This magnified image shows immune cells, in blue, attacking and killing mesothelioma cells, in magenta. (Cells have been artificially colored.)

The immune cells are specially modified white blood cells called CAR T cells. These cells are filtered from a patient’s blood, engineered to recognize cancer cells, and then returned to the patient’s body. Once infused back into the patient, they seek out and attack cancer cells. (CAR stands for chimeric antigen receptor, which is the part added to the T cell that enables it to recognize the cancer.)

This treatment approach is a type of immunotherapy. It shows promise for treating blood cancers such as leukemia as well as some solid tumors, including certain types of lung cancer, breast cancer, and mesothelioma.

The image is from the lab of physician-scientist Prasad Adusumilli, who is leading immunotherapy research using T cells that are modified to recognize mesothelin — a protein found on the surface of some tumors in the chest — and to attack those cells.

Learn more about Dr. Adusumilli’s research.


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Dr-Adusumillil performed my surgery in May 2016. Just had first cat scan and am cancer free. Dr Adusumillil was professional and explained everything in laymans terms to my family and me. I can't stop telling everyone (coworkers and friends) how wonderful Sloan was and would highly recommend your hospital and of course Dr Adusumillil.

Dear Renee, we are glad to know that your surgery went well and that you have felt well-cared for by Dr. Adusumilli and his team. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience on our blog.

Are they doing any clinical studies and would this work on Invasive Mammary Carcinoma? Thanks

Hi Sharyce, there are a number of immunotherapy treatments currently being evaluated for breast cancer in clinical trials, but it’s too early to say which ones will ultimately be effective. If you’re interested in making an appointment to learn more, you can call 800-525-2225 or go to https://www.mskcc.org/experience/become-patient/appointment for more information on making an appointment. Thank you for your comment.

Can Dr.Adusumillil treat ovarian small cell cancers with his immune therapy approach??

Dear Mike, Dr. Adusumilli specializes in cancers in the chest, but we offer a number of clinical trials for people with ovarian cancer. To see a list of our trials evaluating new treatments - including immunotherapies — for ovarian cancer, please visit https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/ovarian/clinical-trials. If you have questions about any of these studies or would like to make an appointment for a loved one, please call our Physician Referral Service at 800-525-2225. Thank you for reaching out to us.

How has this method helped Mesothelioma patients? How many treatments are needed? currently being treated at Roswell after having surgery to remove lining of the lung 5 yrs ago, now a few more nodules have surfaced.

My dad has just found he is with the sarcomatoid mesothelioma. He had a surgery and taken off a large tumor mass, size around 10×7cm from lung. His lung is clean now but there are still some cancer cells left behind his chest wall and we will try the multimodal therapy. The cells are not spread to lymph nodes so i think it didnt go too far. We live i Korea, but we are trying to find every ways to save him from the desease. So we have huge possibility to go to US and get better treatment if possible. What do you think we should do in this situation?
Thank you very much in advance.

Dear Jae, we are sorry to hear about your father’s diagnosis. If you would like to arrange for a medical records review by mail or make an in-person appointment, please contact our International Center at international@mskcc.org. You may learn more about the services our International Center provides to patients who live outside the United States by visiting https://www.mskcc.org/experience/become-patient/international-patients. Thank you for reaching out to us.