Monday, December 2, 2013

ASH: Follicular Lymphoma and Lifestyle Factors

OK, I'm going to start this one off with a great big warning about being very careful about what you read. The information in this ASH abstract looks really, really good to me, but we're also talking about a relatively small study (123 patients) that is retrospective (looking back at patients who were treated 30 years ago, in some cases), and it deals with statistical analysis of a group (always something to be wary of when considering the impact on your own life).

The abstract is for a paper called "The Influence Of Lifestyle Factors On Tumor-Related Markers and The Microenvironment In Follicular Lymphoma (FL): Novel Interactions and Collective Impact On Survival," and it looks at the correlation between some specific biomarkers (that is, some proteins on the surface of the Follicular Lymphoma cells) and certain lifestyle factors (specifically, Body Mass Index [BMI], diet, and smoking habits). As I said above, the study looked retrospectively as 123 Follicular Lyimphoma patients, and found some fascinating correlations:

  • Patients with high CD7 biomarker tended to eat lots of fruit, veggies, and starch, especially carotene-rich veggies.
  • Smokers tended to have lower CD7 levels.
  • More fruit was associated with higher CD10 levels.
  • High BMI was associated with higher Overall Survival.
  • High CD7 levels were also associated with higher Overall Survival.
  • High BMI and high CD7 levels combined were associated with even higher OS.
So what might we read from this?

Well, I'm writing this while I take a lunch break, pretty thrilled that my non-smoking, fat-butted/high BMI self is eating a clementine. Hooray for Lympho Bob.

What should we read from this?

Probably not quite as much. I'll say it again -- it's a small retrospective study that found some interesting correlations, but I'm guessing that are plenty of carrot-eaters out there who still struggling with their Follicular Lymphoma. Trends do not add up to individual truths. These trends will need a lot more study before they can really be considered worthwhile, and even then, even with a sampling of 10,000 FL patients, things won't necessarily hold true for individuals.

This is probably a good time to remind everyone of how ASH works, and what it all means. The ASH conference is often the first chance that many researchers get to present the results of their research and get a little feedback. At some point, they will need to subject their results to "peer review" -- having other experts in the field look very carefully at the data and determine if it's all as good as it seems. Presenting at ASH is just the first step. Not all of what we see is going to result in something that shows up at our oncologist's office and treatment room. We have to remember that.

For me, looking at ASH abstracts gives me some hope. It gives me something to look forward to. But there's never any promise of success that goes along with it. If things don't work out, that's OK -- I'm happy to move on to the next thing that might give me some hope.

So the takeaway here probably isn't all that startling. Even if we don't have a definite correlation between specific lifestyle factors and Overall Survival for Follicular Lymphoma, we all know that we shouldn't smoke, we should eat more vegetables and fruits, and we should keep our weight down. That probably helps everyone's OS, not just Follicular Lymphoma patients'.

Still, that whole BMI link to Overall Survival is kind of nice, given how much pie I ate over the last few days....


Karl Schwartz said...

Thank you for this and your other very readable and thoughtful posts.

Patients Against Lymphoma

Lymphomaniac said...

You're welcome, Karl. And thanks to you and PAL for teaching me so much (and for linking my posts).

Mike said...

Very interesting..... now do I have an excuse not to drop those 40 lbs. of unsightly BMI? Not sure my doctor would be amused, but we joke about it because she is in the same boat as me when it comes to BMI.