On Lymphoma Day, celebrate these research and treatment advances

September 14, 2015 | by Tami Dennis

lymphoma day awareness Here's the take-home message for World Lymphoma Awareness Day 2015: Treatment is improving.

The lymph system is an unheralded hero of the human body. A beautifully complex array of interconnected tissues, vessels and organs, it keeps fluid levels in check throughout the body while also fighting off infection and disease – filtering out viruses, bacteria and fungi, then destroying them. Cancers of this system are known as lymphoma, and City of Hope is committed to eradicating them.

The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Because each type has many subtypes, prognosis and treatment vary depending on the specific disease and the individual patient. What doesn’t vary is the need for expertise.

As home to the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center, one of the biggest and most successful treatment centers in the nation, City of Hope is renowned for its ability to diagnose and treat all types of lymphoma. It has united the nation’s leading scientists and physicians in this effort, and together, these experts are improving treatment options for lymphoma patients today, even as they create new treatments – and cures – for lymphoma patients in the future.

Here, based on interviews with City of Hope experts Larry Kwak, M.D., the Tim Nesvig Lymphoma Research Fellow at City of Hope and director of the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center, and hematologist oncologist Robert W. Chen, M.D., are three of the latest developments against each of the two main types of lymphoma.

Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • A drug known as brentuximab vedotin. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a few years ago for relapsed/refractory Hodgkin lymphoma, this targeted therapy is highly effective with few side effects. Researchers are now conducting a variety of clinical trials of the drug in order to maximize its use.
  • A new class of drugs called PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors. These drugs enhance the patient’s own immune system, with limited toxicity. Again, clinical trials are underway.
  • Another class of drugs called PI3K inhibitors. This type of drug blocks an enzyme that cancer cells need and is showing promise against Hodgkin lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma:
  • The drug ibrutinib. Known as a BTK inhibitor, this drug has received FDA approval for treatment of relapsed/refractory mantle cell lymphoma. It also is showing extreme promise either alone or in combination with other drugs in specific subtypes of B cell lymphoma.
  • Immune-based therapy. Several drugs are focused on enhancing the patients’ own immune system to fight their lymphomas for them, with various PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors currently undergoing clinical trials. Also, CAR T cell therapy is a way to take the patient’s own immune T cells and engineer them in the laboratory to recognize lymphoma cells through tumor-specific antigens. It is also currently undergoing clinical trials.
  • The drug idelasib. One of the PI3K inhibitors, it is showing promise against B cell lymphomas and other types of lymphomas.
Suffice to say, treatment has improved – and is still improving.

“We understand the molecular biology behind lymphoma and the subtypes of lymphomas much better today as compared to 10 years ago,” Chen said. “Because we can identify specific markers associated with subtypes of lymphomas, and specific targets to use to kill cancer cells, we are able to make new drugs that are truly targeted. In general, lymphoma treatment is very well-tolerated and highly effective.”

Treatment is especially effective at City of Hope, where patients with both non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma benefit from physicians’ and scientists’ internally known expertise, from the use of gold-standard therapies and from access to the most promising clinical trials.

“We have a dedicated group of clinicians, researchers and administrators all working together to develop new and better treatment for lymphoma,” said Kwak, also associate director for developmental therapeutics and translational research for the cancer center.

That dedication gets results.


Learn more about lymphoma research and treatment at City of Hope's Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center.


Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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