Hope for certain hard-to-treat cancers

At UW Health, we develop and study new treatments that bring hope to people facing cancer. One of them is CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy. This groundbreaking treatment may be an option for people with certain types of blood cancer that are challenging to treat.

CAR T-cell therapy is used in children and adults. We offer it through American Family Children’s Hospital and the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center.

Dr. Christian Capitini explains how CAR T-cell therapy works

About the treatment

CAR T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy. This is a newer form of cancer treatment. It uses part of your own immune system — infection-fighting T-cells — to attack cancer.

There are different forms of
CAR T-cell therapy.

There are different forms of CAR T-Cell therapy. Since 2017, the therapy has been approved by the FDA to fight certain cancers that haven’t been cured with standard therapies. We may also use CAR T-Cell therapy on cancer that has returned after we’ve tried at least two other kinds of treatment. 

Adult treatment

Adult cancers we treat with CAR T-cell therapy include: 

  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphomas

  • Multiple myeloma

  • Primary mediastinal large B cell lymphoma

  • High grade B cell lymphoma

  • Mantle cell lymphoma

Clinical trials found that roughly half of the people who received CAR T-cell therapy showed no sign of cancer after treatment.

Children’s treatment

Pediatric cancers that may be treated with CAR T-cell therapy include: 

  • B-Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This treatment is offered through age 25.

In clinical trials, 83 percent of children with ALL had no sign of cancer after treatment.

Clinical trials

We’re performing clinical trials to test CAR T-cell therapy for other cancers too.

For more information on clinical trials for adults

For more information on clinical trials for children

Treatment process

How is treatment provided?

There are several steps in giving CAR T-cell therapy

  1. 01.
    We collect the T-cells

    First, we collect T-cells, which are a type of white blood cell, from your blood. This involves a process much like donating blood.

  2. 02.
    We “supercharge” the cells

    We send the collected cells to an outside lab. There, scientists modify them. The cells end up with chimeric antigen receptors on their surface. These receptors help the T-cells find and attack cancer cells.

  3. 03.
    We grow the cells

    In the lab, scientists multiply the T-cells. Once there are hundreds of millions of them, they freeze the cells and return them to the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center.

  4. 04.
    We deliver chemotherapy

    You undergo a brief course of chemotherapy.

  5. 05.
    We return the altered T-cells

    After you undergo a course of chemotherapy, we reinfuse the T-cells into your body. They continue to multiply in your bloodstream. At the same time, the T-cells seek and destroy cancer cells. Adults stay in the hospital during treatment. Children usually receive treatment as outpatients. However, we ask that families stay in the Madison area with your child for about a month.

Considering your options

As with all treatments, side effects can occur. We help you weigh the potential risks and benefits. If you proceed with treatment, we watch you closely. We’re ready to manage any complications that might occur.

If CAR T-cell therapy is not right for your type of cancer, we have many other cancer clinical trials that may be helpful.

Request more information about CAR T-cell therapy for adults.

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UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center

The experts at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center intimately understand every type of cancer. We will get to know you and design a treatment plan that works for you and your family.

Learn more

Meet our team

Offering the hope of better health

Our experienced team provides the most powerful medicines. We also provide something that can be just as important: Hope.


Advanced treatments and top-rated care

When you turn to us, you’ll get some of the best cancer care in the country.

  • An original member of the Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment Network, which is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. 

  • One of only ten “Pediatric Cancer Dream Team” centers in the world. This recognition comes from the American Association of Cancer Research, Stand Up to Cancer and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. 

  • Wisconsin’s only comprehensive cancer center. We’re recognized for our patient care and research.

Patient support and resources

Help for today’s patients and an eye toward the future

Patient stories
A person sitting at a table in front of a brick wall
Taya LarsonTaya Larson's story
Carbone patient celebrates one year in remission after CAR T-cell therapy

Related programs and services

Online resources