Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-engineered lymphocytes for cancer therapy

Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2011 Jul;11(7):855-73. doi: 10.1517/14712598.2011.573476. Epub 2011 Apr 4.


Introduction: Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) usually combine the antigen binding site of a monoclonal antibody with the signal activating machinery of a T cell, freeing antigen recognition from MHC restriction and thus breaking one of the barriers to more widespread application of cellular therapy. Similar to treatment strategies employing monoclonal antibodies, T cells expressing CARs are highly targeted, but additionally offer the potential benefits of active trafficking to tumor sites, in vivo expansion and long-term persistence. Furthermore, gene transfer allows the introduction of countermeasures to tumor immune evasion and of safety mechanisms.

Areas covered: The basic structure of so-called first and later generation CARs and their potential advantages over other immune therapy systems. How these molecules can be grafted into immune cells (including retroviral and non-retroviral transduction methods) and strategies to improve the in vivo persistence and function of immune cells expressing CARs. Examples of tumor-associated antigens that have been targeted in preclinical models and clinical experience with these modified cells. Safety issues surrounding CAR gene transfer into T cells and potential solutions to them.

Expert opinion: Because of recent advances in immunology, genetics and cell processing, CAR-modified T cells will likely play an increasing role in the cellular therapy of cancer, chronic infections and autoimmune disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / biosynthesis*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Therapy / adverse effects
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / adverse effects
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / biosynthesis
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / transplantation*
  • Tumor Escape


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins