How do T cells recognize cancer cells

CAR T cells

October 28, 2019 was a Monday, Herbert Schopper remembers that exactly. It was the day on which the now 72-year-old received an infusion with CAR-T cells: a product made especially for him, a “living” drug with billions of his own immune cells - equipped to fight cancer. Herbert Schopperschon had received the diagnosis - aggressive lymph gland cancer with involvement of the stomach - in 2012, as soon as he had retired. "At that time I suddenly vomited an unimaginable amount of blood at night and was taken to the hospital by an emergency doctor," reports the patient. Several chemotherapies followed - all three at first, then every two weeks at the end - and repeated radiation sessions. Finally, Herbert Schopper underwent high-dose chemotherapy followed by an autologous stem cell transplant. That means: Herbert Schopper's own stem cells should rebuild his blood-forming bone marrow. But every three years the horror came back - as a recurrence in the appendix.

“At some point I had no more strength for chemo and no hope either,” says Herbert Schopper. At the end of 2019, his oncologist recommended that he be treated with CAR-T cells in Medical Clinic 5 - Hematology and Internal Oncology. “For me there was - as the saying goes - no alternative. Anyone striving for a cure has to agree to this new treatment at some point, I think. Otherwise the stairs will only go downhill. "After the pensioner had met all the requirements for CAR-T-cell therapy, he decided on the new treatment - and on the stairs upstairs.


Until spring 2020 were in Erlangen 15 Cancer patients treated with CAR-T cells - one of them was Herbert Schopper. Significantly more patients are expected to join in the course of 2020.


“CAR-T cells are currently only suitable for patients with certain B-cell lymphomas and B-cell leukemias who have already had several chemotherapy or other treatments, but where the disease keeps flaring up and the chances of survival are high minimized. Nevertheless, those affected should be in good general condition. The circulation must be stable, the heart and kidneys should function normally, ”explains Prof. Dr. Andreas Mackensen, Director of Medicine 5, the complex selection of suitable candidates. However, age is not necessarily the decisive factor: the patients who have previously received CAR-T cells at the University Clinic Erlangen were between 18 and 80 years old.