Access to Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cell Clinical Trials in Underrepresented Populations: A Multicenter Cohort Study of Pediatric and Young Adult Acute Lymphobastic Leukemia Patients

Transplant Cell Ther. 2023 Jun;29(6):356.e1-356.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.jtct.2023.03.022. Epub 2023 Mar 24.


Chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy is a promising approach to improve survival for children and adults with relapsed/refractory (r/r) B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), but these clinical trials might not be equally accessible to patients of low socioeconomic status (SES) or to patients from racial or ethnic minority groups. We sought to describe the sociodemographic characteristics of pediatric and adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients enrolled in CAR-T clinical trials and to compare these characteristics to those of other patients with r/r B-ALL. We conducted a multicenter retrospective cohort study at 5 pediatric consortium sites to compare the sociodemographic characteristics of patients treated and enrolled in CAR-T trials at their home institution, other patients with r/r B-ALL treated at these sites, and patients referred from an external hospital for CAR-T trials. The patients were age 0 to 27 years with r/r B-ALL treated at 1 of the consortium sites between 2012 and 2018. Clinical and demographic data were collected from the electronic health record. We calculated distance from home to treating institution and assigned SES scores based on census tract. Among the 337 patients treated for r/r B-ALL, 112 were referred from an external hospital to a consortium site and enrolled in a CAR-T trial and 225 were treated primarily at a consortium site, with 34% enrolled in a CAR-T trial. Patients treated primarily at a consortium site had similar characteristics regardless of trial enrollment. Lower proportions of Hispanic patients (37% versus 56%; P = .03), patients whose preferred language was Spanish (8% versus 22%; P = .006), and publicly insured patients (38% versus 65%; P = .001) were referred from an external hospital than were treated primarily at a consortium site and enrolled in a CAR-T trial. Patients who are Hispanic, Spanish-speaking, or publicly insured are underrepresented in referrals from external hospitals to CAR-T centers. External provider implicit bias also may influence referral of these patients. Establishing partnerships between CAR-T centers and external hospital sites may improve provider familiarity, patient referral, and patient access to CAR-T clinical trials.

Keywords: Access to care; B-ALL; CAR-T cells; Clinical trials; Disparities; Pediatric.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Ethnicity
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute*
  • Minority Groups
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma* / therapy
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen* / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies
  • T-Lymphocytes
  • Young Adult


  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen