Research and Clinical Trials

T-Cell Immunotherapy for Cancer

Seattle Children’s is an international leader in research to cure childhood cancer by boosting the immune system with immunotherapy. We treat more types of relapsed or refractory childhood cancers using T-cell therapies than any other facility:

The clinical trials developed at our Immunotherapy Integration Hub focus on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy. Additional immunotherapy trials were developed at Fred Hutch.

The CAR T-cell products used in our trials are made onsite at our own state-of-the-art Therapeutic Cell Production Core. This means we can deliver treatments quickly to patients enrolled in clinical trials at Seattle Children’s and at our collaborating sites.

We focus on your whole child, not just their disease. At Seattle Children’s, your family has a full team behind you, taking care of your child’s medical, physical, learning, emotional and comfort needs. Patients and families involved in immunotherapy trials have the dedicated support of a social services specialist.

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For more information on pediatric immunotherapy or referral information, call 206-987-2106 or send us an email.

How does CAR T-cell therapy work?

T cells are white blood cells in the immune system that fight infection. The goal with T-cell immunotherapy is to reprogram a child’s own T cells so they can seek out and destroy cancer cells wherever they are hiding in the body.

Here is how it works:

  1. We draw a blood sample from your child. This sample goes to a special part of Seattle Children’s Research Institute called the Therapeutic Cell Production Core. Our lab staff remove the T cells from the sample, purify them and reprogram them. In this case, “reprogram” means to change the T cells by adding recombinant DNA (genetically modify them). Then, the newly programmed T cells multiply into millions of new cells. 
  2. The changed T cells are put back into your child’s body through an intravenous (IV) infusion. 
  3. The hope is that the changed cells will go to work right away, finding and destroying the cancer cells in your child’s body. The T cells make a place on their surface (a receptor) that acts like Velcro. This receptor allows the T cells to recognize and bind to a target on the cancer cells. When they bind, the T cells can attack the cancer cells as if they were fighting an infection.

The receptor that’s made on the T cells is called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). T cells that have the receptor may be called CAR T cells.

When your child’s T cells are programmed, they are also "tagged." This is so our research team can track them in the body. If doctors want to stop the action of the T cells later, they can do this with the drug cetuximab, which recognizes the tag.

Learn how immunotherapy research at Seattle Children’s is paving the way to become the next great advancement in cancer treatment. Through cellular engineering, we enable the body’s own immune system to heal itself – without the harsh and often lifelong side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Who can benefit from the studies?

Children and young adults who have:

Meet the Experts

Learn more about the people behind our immunotherapy program.

Meet the Heroes (video 4:43)

Contact Us

For more information on pediatric immunotherapy or referral information, call 206-987-2106 or send us an email.

Updated July 2019.

New Cure. New Hope.

Strong Against Cancer logo transparentThrough our Strong Against Cancer initiative, we’re leading the fight against childhood cancer with  immunotherapy. Learn how you can get involved.

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