Purpose of review: The impact of immunotherapy has grown exponentially in the past 5 years. Principle illustrations are encouraging results with engineered T cells expressing a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). This experimental therapy is developing simultaneously in pediatric and adult clinical trials, making this field particularly relevant and exciting for pediatric oncologists.
Recent findings: CAR-modified T cells targeting CD19 have produced dramatic antitumor responses in patients with relapsed/refractory B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Clinical trials from several institutions, in both children and adults, using distinct CAR T cell products have demonstrated similar high complete remission rates of 61-93%, with durable remissions observed. Although the development of CARs for other malignancies has lagged behind, research into novel approaches to overcome inherent challenges is promising.
Summary: Clinical trials of CAR-modified T cells have produced unprecedented results and are anticipated to have a broader impact as this approach expands into other indications, including other cancers and frontline therapy. The potential for long-term disease control, if fully realized, will have a transformative impact on the field.