While the world is in the throes of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, cancer research marshals forward with a focus on CAR T-cell therapy. 

Since the National Institute of Health’s (NIH's) National Cancer Institute (NCI) published its first study on CAR T-cell therapy in 2010, the agency has dedicated a great deal of time, energy, and global resources to ensure success. On April 23, 2020, NCI announced an initiative to increase the number of CAR T-cell clinical trials at multiple hospitals. 

Although the initiative is in its infancy, the first trial will test a CAR T-cell therapy designed to target the CD33 protein on cancer cells in children and young adults with advanced forms of acute myeloid leukemia. The trial will take place at six locations, beginning with NIH’s clinical center in Bethesda, MD, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  

“When the CD33 concept was first developed, we were all thinking it would be a single-center phase I trial, because we previously did not have the infrastructure to plan for a multicenter trial,” Nirali Shah, MD, who has led several CAR T-cell therapy clinical trials in pediatric patients with blood cancers at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, said. “You need to have the infrastructure and the support and the knowledge to be able to do this well.”