DOI: 10.1182/blood.2023020703 ISSN: 0006-4971

Mitigating inequity: ethically prioritizing patients for CAR T-cell therapy

Jennifer A. H. Bell, Gregory A. Jeffries, Christine I. Chen
  • Cell Biology
  • Hematology
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry


Manufacturing capacity and institutional infrastructure to deliver chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies (CAR-T) are pressured to keep pace with the growing number of approved products and expanding eligible patient population for this potentially life-saving therapy. Consequently, many cell therapy programs must make difficult decisions about which patient should get the next available treatment slot. This situation requires an ethical framework to ensure fair and equitable decision-making. In this perspective, we discuss the application of Accountability for Reasonableness (A4R), a priority-setting framework grounded in procedural justice, to the problem of limited CAR-T slots at our institution. We formed a multidisciplinary working group spanning several hematological malignancies. Through multiple rounds of partner engagement, we used A4R guiding principles to identify 4 main criteria to prioritize patients for CAR-T: medical benefit, safety/risk of complications, psychosocial factors, and medical urgency. Associated measures/tools and an implementation process were developed. We discuss further how ethical principles of fairness and equity demand a consistent approach within health systems that does not disadvantage medically underserved or underrepresented populations and supports overcoming barriers to care. In our commitment to transparency and collaboration, we make our tools available to others, ideally to be used to engage in their own A4R process, adapting the tools to their unique environments. Our hope is that our preliminary work will support the advancement of further study in this area globally, aiming for justice in resource allocation for all potential CAR-T candidates, wherever they may seek care.

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