Sunday, September 21, 2014

An Upbeat Expert on Lymphoma

Patient Power, the cancer education group, has a great video up called "An Expert's Upbeat Perspective on Progress in Lymphoma."

You'll have a hard time finding a better title than that. I challenge any lymphoma patient to read that link and somehow manage to resist clicking.

In case you have resisted so far (I admire your self control), the video is an interview from the 2014 International Workshop on Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (iwNHL), a conference for Lymphoma experts. the very upbeat speaker is Dr. Myron Czuczman, who is head of Lymphoma/Myeloma department at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.

Dr. Czuczuman gives us about 8 minutes of subdued excitement without taking a breath. The title of the video really is accurate -- you can feel how excited he is about all of this.

Some highlights for me:
  • He discusses newer, targeted agents (like Revilmid, Ibrutinib, and Idelalisib/Zyedelig), and how they are different from traditional chemotherapy in the way they (mostly) spare healthy cells and cut down on side effects
  • He remembers how monoclonal antibodies (like Rituxan) were once considered the 'magic bullet" that would lead to a cure (not exactly the magic bullet, but Rituxan is still pretty darn awesome)
  • He mentions the "pizza delivery" system of using targeted agents to bring treatments directly to cancer cells
  • He starts to mention -- and then pulls back from -- discussing CAR T cells, where the body's T cells are "re-educated" to find CD19 or CD20 proteins on lymphoma cells and then destroy them, so the body's own natural defense system is being called into play, rather than using an outside substance. that's still too far down the line to get excited about, but he's excited anyway.

He ends with a pretty interesting statement: "The number of therapies we have, in some ways, make it difficult, because getting the right combination, the right sequencing, which ones are best combined." This is a variation on something I wrote about a few days ago -- there are so many good possible treatments out there that we don't have the resources to try them all.

The solution, according to Dr. Czuczuman? Encouraging more patients to join clinical trials. He says we have lots of "building blocks" now, and the more we learn about them, the better foundation we have for developing more treatments in the future.

Another excellent video from Patient Power. Watch it for the excitement about the future from a lymphoma expert.

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