Challenges of Cellular Therapy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Kamal Kant Sahu, Sikander Ailawadhi, Natalie Malvik, Jan Cerny

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Currently, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has spread worldwide and continues to rise. There remains a significant unmet need for patients with hematological malignancies requiring specialized procedures and treatments, like cellular therapy to treat or cure their disease. For instance, chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell therapy is approved for relapsed/refractory (after two or more lines of therapy) diffuse large B cell lymphoma and B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia that is refractory or in the second relapse in patients younger than 25 years of age. Similarly, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) can be a lifesaving procedure for many patients, such as those with acute myeloid leukemia with high-risk cytogenetics. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust upon the hematologists and transplant specialists’ unique challenges with the implementation and management of cellular therapy. One of the significant concerns regarding this immunocompromised patient population is the significant risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection due to its highly contagious nature. Experts have recommended that if medically indicated, especially in high-risk disease (where chemotherapy is unlikely to work), these lifesaving procedures should not be delayed even during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, proceeding with CAR-T cell therapy and HSCT during the pandemic is a considerable task and requires dedication from the transplant team and buy-in from the patients and their family or support system. Open conversations should be held with the patients about the risks involved in undergoing cellular therapies during current times and the associated future uncertainties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019


  • COVID-19
  • Cellular therapy
  • Chimeric antigen receptor
  • Coronavirus
  • Pandemic
  • Stem cells
  • T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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