CAR-T Cells: Engineered Cancer Killers

Oct 15, 2022

Chimeric Antigen Receptor, or CAR-T cell therapy, is a revolutionary treatment used for blood cancers such as leukaemias and lymphomas. The process involves engineering a patient's own immune T cells to express Chimeric Antigen Receptors, or CARs on the cell surface. When the CAR-T cells are re-infused into the patient, they multiply rapidly and the CARs enable them to specifically seek and destroy cancer cells throughout the body. For some patients this has proven to be a miracle treatment when all other options have been exhausted. This production explains how cancer cells can avoid detection by our immune cells. We then learn how our immune cells can be super charged by CAR-T technology and how this works at the molecular and cellular levels using 3D animation and ground-breaking microscopy techniques. Becasue of video submission criteria, the quality of the molecular and cellular sequences in this production have been compressed. You can see the video at much higher resolution at

This work was produced to show how CAR-T technology supercharges a patient's own immune cells to combat the processes cancer cells use to hide from the immune system. We recognised there was a need to explain these processes in detail and we felt that doing this at the molecular level would highlight the elegance of the CAR structures and also the complexity of our inner cellular world, which most of us are completely unaware of. Unfortunately, it is the control of this inner world that can sometimes go awry, leading to situations such as cancer. This is the first time to our knowledge that CARs have been constructed and animated at the molecular level. To date only simple conceptual animations explaining CAR-T therapy have been available, which in our opinion fail to highlight the fact that the technology is a ground-breaking re-engineering of human immune structures that seek and destroy cancer cells that could otherwise hide from the immune system. We would also like to call attention to the unique time-lapse microscopy techniques displaying live immune cells and CAR-T cells in action in the lab. Our scientists employ innovative fluorescence staining techniques to identify cells and indicate processes such as cell death, capturing these events through the microscope. These unique sequences offer us a window into the living human immune system and show how CAR-T cells kill cancer cells in a very direct and aggressive way. The production is designed to educate patients and the interested persons about this unique technology for treatment of cancer and to inspire confidence in cancer patients considering this therapy. The production is primarily made for a general audience and to that end, we chose not to use technical language or jargon, however the scientific accuracy of the production also makes it suitable for presentation at scientific meetings and conferences and can also be used to educate and train those with a science or medical background. We therefore feel the production has universal appeal and application.

Software: UCSF Chimera 1.16; BLAST; Autodesk Maya 2020 with Arnold renderer; mMaya 2020: PDB Import, Modeling, Rigging and Cytos.