Both bone marrow transplants (also known as stem cell transplants) and CAR T-cell therapy effectively treat childhood leukemia. But there are some differences.
Doctors can use bone marrow transplants to treat several types of childhood leukemia, including ALL, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Currently, doctors can only use CAR T-cell therapy to treat B-cell ALL. B-cell ALL is the most common type of leukemia that relapses.
CAR T-cell therapy tends to have fewer side effects than stem cell transplants because:
- Kids receive lower doses of chemotherapy.
- It involves the patient’s own cells — not a donor’s. Using your child’s own cells lowers the risk for complications like graft-versus-host disease, where the immune system attacks the patient's healthy cells.
Who Can Get Leukemia CAR T-Cell Therapy?
Because of ongoing leukemia clinical trials, the list of children who can get CAR T-cell therapy grows each year. Children with other kinds of leukemia or lymphoma may also be able to get this therapy in the future as we continue to prove its safety and effectiveness.
In 2017, the FDA approved the use of CAR T-cell therapy in children with B-cell ALL that has relapsed. If your child has been diagnosed with B-cell ALL that has relapsed or not responded to other treatments, they may be eligible for CAR T-cell therapy.