Chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR T-cell therapy, is a new form of immunotherapy that uses specially altered T cells to directly and precisely target cancer cells.

The immune system is made up of a variety of cells and organs that normally protect the body from infection and cancer. An important component of the immune system are T cells, which have the capacity to hunt down and destroy abnormal cells, including some cancer cells.

Sometimes, cancer cells find ways to evade the immune system; so, the immune system needs to be retrained and enhanced to recognize and attack cancer cells. CAR T-cell therapy is one innovative approach to program and strengthen the immune system to attack some forms of cancer.

After a small portion of a patient's own T cells has been collected from the blood, these cells are re-engineered in a special laboratory so they now carry special structures called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface.

When these CAR T cells are reinjected into the patient, they multiply rapidly and these engineered receptors may help the T cells to identify and attack cancer cells throughout the body.

CAR T-cell therapy has been shown to be effective in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and adult diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). 

There are no approved CAR-T treatments worldwide for solid cancers. However, research is underway at Peter Mac in CAR-T cell treatment of solid cancers.  Please see for further information.

CAR-T is distinct from, and does not replace allogeneic stem cell transplant (from a donor).  Find out more information on allogeneic transplants. 


Regulatory approval

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved Novartis’ CAR-T product Kymriah® (tisagenlecleucel, formerly CTL019). The approved indications are for the treatment of paediatric and young adult patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) that is refractory, in relapse post-transplant, or in second or later relapse; and for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) after two or more lines of systemic therapy. 

Funding approval

The CAR T-cell therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) is currently funded for:

  • paediatric and young adult patients (up to 25 yrs) with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) who relapse or do not respond to initial therapy.

CAR-T therapy will soon be publicly funded in Australia for the treatment of eligible adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) (see eligibility criteria  for treatment with Kymriah).

This follows a positive recommendation from the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) and announcement  by the Minister for Health on Tuesday 28 January 2020.

For any queries related to patient eligibility for CAR-T therapy or how patients can access this treatment, please email us at: [email protected]

Clinical trials

We continue to look for new uses of CAR-T in clinical trials, and we are looking to enrol specific patients into current and upcoming clinical trials in Leukaemia, Lymphoma and some solid cancers. For clinical trial availability email: [email protected] or visit

Please discuss with your haematologist or oncologist to assess if CAR T-cell therapy is an appropriate therapy for your disease.