Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy relies on T cells engineered to target specific tumor antigens such as CD-19 in B-cell malignancies. In this setting, the commercially available products have offered a potential
long-term cure for both pediatric and adult patients. Yet manufacturing CAR T cells is a cumbersome, multistep process, the success of which strictly depends on the characteristics of the starting material, i.e., lymphocyte collection yield and composition. These, in turn, might be affected by patient factors such as age, performance status, comorbidities, and previous therapies. Ideally, CAR T-cell therapies are a one-off treatment; therefore, optimization and the possible standardization of the leukapheresis procedure is critical, also in view of the novel CAR T cells currently under investigation for hematological malignancies and solid tumors. The most recent Best Practice recommendations for the management of children and adults undergoing CAR T-cell therapy provide a comprehensive guide to their use. However, their application in local practice is not straightforward and some grey areas remain. An Italian Expert Panel of apheresis specialists and hematologists from the centers authorized to administer CAR T-cell therapy took part in a detailed discussion on the following: 1) pre-apheresis patient evaluation; 2) management of the leukapheresis procedure, also in special situations represented by low lymphocyte count, peripheral blastosis, pediatric population <25 kg, and the COVID-19 outbreak; and 3) release and cryopreservation of the apheresis unit. This article presents some of the important challenges that must be faced to optimize the leukapheresis procedure and offers suggestions as to how to improve it, some of which are specific to the Italian setting.
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