Managing the toxicities of CAR T-cell therapy

Hematol Oncol. 2019 Jun;37 Suppl 1:48-52. doi: 10.1002/hon.2595.


Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy has the potential to revolutionize the management of B-cell lymphomas and possibly other cancers. Two anti-CD19 CAR T-cell products, axicabtagene ciloleucel and tisagenlecleucel, have been approved for the management of relapsed/refractory large B-cell lymphoma after two lines of systemic therapy. Additional trials are ongoing to evaluate these and other CAR T products at earlier stages of the disease course as well as in other lymphomas. While the potential to induce durable remissions with a single CAR T-cell infusion even in patients who are chemorefractory has generated much enthusiasm in the field, practitioners need to familiarize themselves with the unique toxicities associated with these therapies. This review will discuss the grading and management of the two most common toxicities, cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome (ICANS), observed acutely after this therapy. In addition, late toxicities including prolonged cytopenias and on-target off-tumor effects will be reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD19 / immunology
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Biomarkers
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / adverse effects*
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Lymphoma / immunology
  • Lymphoma / pathology
  • Lymphoma / therapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen / genetics
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antigens, CD19
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen