The CAR T cell therapy process, step by step

If you and your doctor decide CAR T cell therapy is right for you, here’s what you can expect

  • Step 1: Apheresis

    First, your blood would be collected and your T cells would be removed.

    Your blood would be taken through a process called apheresis, sometimes called leukapheresis. Then, the components of the blood would be organized into groups: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Your T cells (a type of white blood cell) would be collected and the rest of the cells would be returned to your body.

    Apheresis usually takes 2 to 3 hours.

    Learn more about the process with our Apheresis 101 Guide.

  • Step 2: Manufacturing

    Your collected T cells would be modified to become CAR T cells.

    Your T cells would be sent to a manufacturing facility where the CARs are added. This can take between 10 days and several weeks to complete. While at the manufacturing site, your doctor could also recommend other treatments.

  • Step 3: Preparation

    You would prepare for the CAR T cell therapy.

    A few days before CAR T cell therapy, you would receive low-dose chemotherapy. This would help prepare your body for treatment and make room for the new CAR T cells.

  • Step 4: Infusion

    The CAR T cells would be returned to your body.

    The modified CAR T cells would be put back into your body by infusion. This usually takes about 1 hour.

  • Step 5: Symptom monitoring

    You would be monitored for side effects.

    After the CAR T cell therapy infusion, you would be monitored closely by your healthcare team for possible side effects. There is a possibility that you could experience severe side effects that require treatment or a longer hospital stay, or that may even cause death. Time at the hospital will vary based on your risk of side effects. You would be allowed to leave the hospital as soon as your healthcare team feels it is safe. However, there is a chance that you could return to the hospital if side effects develop.

  • Step 6: Continued follow-up

    You would meet with your healthcare team to see how you’re doing and to be monitored for side effects.

    To better understand the long-term results of CAR T cell therapy, doctors monitor people over a period of time to measure whether the CAR T cell therapy is working and to watch for side effects. The frequency of these follow-ups may vary and would be determined by the healthcare team.

Depending on which CAR T cell therapy your healthcare team decides is appropriate for you, the treatment process may vary.

CAR T cell therapy may cause side effects that would need to be monitored by your healthcare team.

See side effects