Risks and Benefits of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell (CAR-T) Therapy in Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Transfus Med Rev. 2019 Apr;33(2):98-110. doi: 10.1016/j.tmrv.2019.01.005. Epub 2019 Feb 14.


Promising efficacy results of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy have been tempered by safety considerations. Our objective was to comprehensively summarize the efficacy and safety of CAR-T cell therapy in patients with relapsed or refractory hematologic or solid malignancies. MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials (inception - November 21, 2017). Interventional studies investigating CAR-T cell therapy in patients with malignancies were included. Our primary outcome of interest was complete response (defined as the absence of detectable cancer). Two independent reviewers extracted relevant data, assessed risk of bias, and graded the quality of evidence using established methods. A total of 42 hematological malignancy studies and 18 solid tumor studies met were included (913 participants). Of 486 evaluable hematologic patients, 54.4% [95% CI, 42.5%-65.9%] experienced complete response in 27 CD19 CAR-T cell therapy studies. Of 65 evaluable hematologic patients, 24.4% [95% CI, 9.4%-50.3%] experienced complete response in seven non-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy studies. Cytokine release syndrome was experienced by 55.3% [95% CI, 40.3%-69.4%] of patients and neurotoxicity 37.2% [95% CI, 28.6%-46.8%] of patients with hematologic malignancies. Of 86 evaluable solid tumor patients, 4.1% [95% CI, 1.6%-10.6%] experienced complete response in eight CAR-T cell therapy studies. Limitations include heterogeneity of study populations, as well as high risk of bias of included studies. There was a strong signal for efficacy of CAR-T cell therapy in patients with CD19+ hematologic malignancies and no overall signal in solid tumor trials published to date. These results will help inform patients, physicians, and other stakeholders of the benefits and risks associated with CAR-T cell therapy.

Keywords: CAR-T cell therapy; Cancer; Hematologic; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD19 / immunology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / immunology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / adverse effects*
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods*
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / therapy
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / therapy
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen / immunology
  • Risk Assessment
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antigens, CD19
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen