Second-generation chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are powerful tools to redirect antigen-specific T cells independently of HLA-restriction. Recent clinical studies evaluating CD19-targeted T cells in patients with B-cell malignancies demonstrate the potency of CAR-engineered T cells. With results from 28 subjects enrolled by five centers conducting studies in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or lymphoma, some insights into the parameters that determine T-cell function and clinical outcome of CAR-based approaches are emerging. These parameters involve CAR design, T-cell production methods, conditioning chemotherapy as well as patient selection. Here, we discuss the potential relevance of these findings and in particular the interplay between the adoptive transfer of T cells and pre-transfer patient conditioning.