Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapy is a promising modality for the treatment of advanced cancers that are otherwise incurable. During the last decade, different centers worldwide have tested the anti-CD19 CAR T cells and shown clinical benefits in the treatment of B cell tumors. However, despite these encouraging results, CAR treatment has also been found to lead to serious side effects and capricious response profiles in patients. In addition, the CD19 CAR success has been difficult to reproduce for other types of malignancy. The appearance of resistant tumor variants, the lack of antigen specificity, and the occurrence of severe adverse effects due to over-stimulation of the therapeutic cells have been identified as the major impediments. This has motivated a growing interest in developing strategies to overcome these hurdles through CAR control. Among them, the combination of small molecules and approved drugs with CAR T cells has been investigated. These have been exploited to induce a synergistic anti-cancer effect but also to control the presence of the CAR T cells or tune the therapeutic activity. In the present review, we discuss opportunistic and rational approaches involving drugs featuring anti-cancer efficacy and CAR-adjustable effect.
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