Cell Therapy for Colorectal Cancer: The Promise of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T Cells

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 29;22(21):11781. doi: 10.3390/ijms222111781.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a global public health problem as it is the third most prevalent and the second most lethal cancer worldwide. Major efforts are underway to understand its molecular pathways as well as to define the tumour-associated antigens (TAAs) and tumour-specific antigens (TSAs) or neoantigens, in order to develop an effective treatment. Cell therapies are currently gaining importance, and more specifically chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy, in which genetically modified T cells are redirected against the tumour antigen of interest. This immunotherapy has emerged as one of the most promising advances in cancer treatment, having successfully demonstrated its efficacy in haematological malignancies. However, in solid tumours, such as colon cancer, it is proving difficult to achieve the same results due to the shortage of TSAs, on-target off-tumour effects, low CAR-T cell infiltration and the immunosuppressive microenvironment. To address these challenges in CRC, new approaches are proposed, including combined therapies, the regional administration of CAR-T cells and more complex CAR structures, among others. This review comprehensively summarises the current landscape of CAR-T cell therapy in CRC from the potential tumour targets to the preclinical studies and clinical trials, as well as the limitations and future perspectives of this novel antitumour strategy.

Keywords: CAR-T cells; cell therapy; chimeric antigen receptor (CAR); clinical trials; colorectal cancer; immunotherapy; neoantigens; preclinical development; tumour-associated antigen (TAA); tumour-specific antigen (TSA).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive* / methods
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen / therapeutic use


  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen