How Cancer Immunotherapy Works: A Cartoon for Kids

This is a kid-friendly explanation of how cancer immunotherapy (T-cell therapy) works. This animation explains, in simple terms, how scientists harness the power of the immune system to kill cancer cells. The narrator is Dr. Shannon Maude, a pediatric oncologist at the Cancer Immunotherapy Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). CHOP is where the first pediatric patient in the world received immunotherapy for cancer, in 2012. Since then we’ve treated more children with this revolutionary new treatment than any hospital.


How Cancer Immunotherapy Works: A Cartoon for Kids

Shannon Maude, MD, PhD: I'm going to explain how immunotherapy works. We turn your T cells into super cells that can find and destroy cancer cells. Let's take a look.

T cells, a type of white blood cell, are designed to kill disease cells. But cancerous B cells often look like your own normal healthy cells, so T cells don't go after them. We're learning how to change that. We collect millions of T cells from the patient then we reprogram them in a lab so they can now identify the B cells and grab onto a substance that is found only on the surface of B cells.

When we put the reprogrammed T cells back into the patient, they flow throughout the body and begin locating cancerous B cells. As the reprogrammed T cells attach to and destroy the rapidly dividing cancerous B cells, they also multiply in the body and they can remain in the body long after to continue fighting any lingering cancerous B cells.

For more information about our Cancer Immunotherapy Program, go to

Related Centers and Programs: Cancer Immunotherapy Program, Cancer Center, Relapsed Leukemia and Lymphoma Program, Center for Precision Medicine for High-Risk Pediatric Cancer