Challenges of Cellular Therapy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Transfusion Medicine; Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology Oncology

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter


Immunology and Infectious Disease | Infectious Disease | Microbiology | Virus Diseases


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.


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

DOI of Published Version



Sahu KK, Ailawadhi S, Malvik N, Cerny J. Challenges of Cellular Therapy During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021;1318:657-672. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-63761-3_36. PMID: 33973204. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Advances in experimental medicine and biology

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID