It's the most wonderful time of the year!
(For a cancer nerd!)
The abstracts for the annual American Society of Hematology conference are available online.
The ASH conference will be held in New Orleans this year from December 7-10. (I have some very fond memories of a trip to New Orleans when my wife and I were first married. Shrimp and oyster po' boys. The St. Charles street car. Cross-dressers singing Cher songs....stories for another time.....)
Anyway, the ASH conference is often when some of the most interesting research about Follicular Lymphoma (and other blood diseases) makes its debut. In a quick search, I found 169 results for "Follicular Lymphoma," and I'll spend the next week or so looking through them to see what's interesting.
One that stands out right away: "Follicular Lymphoma In Young Adults: Clinical Characteristics and Early Treatment Outcomes." I consider myself still young, especially in Follicular Lymphoma terms, given that the median age of those diagnosed is about 67. Alas, "young adults" in this sense means those under 40. I was 40 years and 6 months when I was diagnosed. But I'm young at heart, so I'm interested in what they have to say.
The study looked at 410 patients who were newly diagnosed with FL; 55 of them were under 40, and the rest were between 40 and 65 (referred to as "older patients," which I'm trying hard not to be offended by). The researchers were interested in how different the lymphoma was -- if there were physical differences, or different outcomes.
They found a few differences: 10 year Overall Survival for the Young Adult group was 89.3%; for the older folks, it was 74.2%. Now, Overall Survival measures death from any cause, whether disease-related or being hit by a runaway streetcar in New Orleans. So it's probably not too surprising that a 39 year ols has a better 10 year survival chance than a 65 year old.
So they measured lymphoma-related survival, too, and found a lower probability of death in the young folks (4%) than in the older folks (15.3%). However, this was not found to be statistically significant (which means they probably didn't have enough patients to look at to really find a trend that they could be confident about).
And here's another fascinating tidbit: the Watch-and-Waiters did much better than those who had treatment right away. (But don't read too much into that. If anything, it just validates that W & W is still an OK choice; it doen't mean it's right for everyone.)
Their conclusion: the physical characteristics of Follicular Lymphoma are pretty much the same, no matter the age of the patient. But younger patients seemed to have a better Overall Survival, and it's going to take more research to figure out why that is true.
Interesting stuff. I'll keep reading and post more soon. (And try to provide a warning for why we should be optimistic, but not too excited, about positive stories from ASH.)