Cytokine Release Syndrome caused by CAR-T Cell Therapy

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Understanding Cytokine Release Syndrome caused by CAR-T Cell Therapy

CAR-T cell therapy is a novel, advanced approach to cancer treatment that utilizes immune system cells to target and eliminate cancer cells. Cytokine release syndrome (CRS), a potentially dangerous side effect associated with the CAR-T cell therapy, is an immune response caused by the rapid production of cytokines. Cytokines are small proteins that are released by cells of the immune system in response to an external stimulus. Cytokines play an important role in modulating and regulating the body’s immune response to infection and disease.

What is CAR-T Cell Therapy?

CAR-T cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy in which a patient’s T cells—a type of white blood cell—are modified to recognize and attack cancer cells. The patient’s T cells are obtained, modified to produce a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that recognizes a specific target on the cancer cell, then re-infused back into the patient. The modified T cells recognize and kill the cancer cells, which can trigger a systemic response. This is known as cytokine release syndrome.

What is Cytokine Release Syndrome?

Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) is an inflammatory response to the release of cytokines that can occur when the CAR-T cells multiply rapidly and attack the cancer cells. It is also known as a “cytokine storm” because of the explosive nature of the immune response. CRS presents itself as flu-like symptoms that can range from mild fever and chills to severe fever, nausea, low blood pressure, and breathing difficulties. In some cases, CRS can be life-threatening.

How is CRS Treated?

Treatment for CRS depends on the severity of the symptoms and may include:

  • Steroids – to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) – to prevent the release of cytokines
  • Antioxidants and other medications – to reduce lung and heart damage caused by oxygen free radicals
  • Plasmapheresis – to remove the cytokines from the bloodstream

In some cases, the symptoms of CRS can be severe and life-threatening. Therefore, it is important for healthcare providers to monitor patients closely and take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of CRS and its complications.


CAR-T cell therapy is a promising new approach to treating cancer, but it can also cause severe side effects such as cytokine release syndrome (CRS). CRS is an immune response that can cause flu-like symptoms and, in some cases, can be life-threatening. Fortunately, CRS is usually mild and can be managed with supportive care and medications. It is important for patients and healthcare providers to be aware of the potential side effects of CAR-T cell therapy so that appropriate steps can be taken to reduce the risk of developing CRS.