Tuesday, February 3, 2015

FL in the UK: New Research

I know I'm way behind on posting. Life is just getting in the way, I guess. I always say, I'm grateful to be as busy as I am, and to be healthy enough to be able to work enough to stay so busy. But Lympho Bob is important to me, too, and it frustrates me when I can't get to it as often as I'd like.

But I'm here today, so let's move on.

As kind of a follow-up to my last post (the Lymphoma Report Card, that looked at availability of treatments around the world), I came across an article about new research on lymphoma in the UK -- what's happening in various stages of the pipeline -- published by the Head of Research for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research, a blood cancer organization. It has some detail about immunotherapy in DLBCL, acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, and Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Alas, nothing on Follicular Lymphoma.

Same in their discussions of other new treatments and approaches to lymphoma, including some pathway treatments that "get at the roots" of diseases, and attempts to prevent lymphoma in the first place. All very interesting, but none of focused on Follicular Lymphoma specifically.

Until I looked at the comments.

Someone asked about Follicular Lymphoma (odd that it was left out of the article), and was given an answer -- two UK studies focused on FL. The first (from an article published last spring) describes a database at the University of Leeds, containing cell samples and medical records from NHL patients in Yorkshire. Researchers will be able to use the database to search for genetic similarities between newly diagnosed patients and those in the database.

The idea is that there are differences and similarities among cancers that the eye cannot see. For a long time, patients were classified based on how their cells looked under a microscope. The "follicular" in Follicular Lymphoma actually describes the way the cells look under a microscope. But now, of course, we can look much deeper into a cell, and see that surface similarities don't mean that two cancer cells are the same cancer -- they may have genetic differences that can't be seen with a microscope. The researchers at Leeds will be able to match up some of those deeper differences and help determine whether certain treatments will work better than others. It's potentially a very different way of looking at cancer treatment.

The other comment in the original article links to a second Follicular Lymphoma-related study. This one announces that a phase I-II trial will begin for BI-1206, a new monoclonal antibody. It works a lot like Rituxan, but with some very important differences.

The first is that it targets a different protein on the surface of the cancer cell. Rituxan targets CD20, while BI-1206 targets CD32b. Always nice to have a different target, in case the two were used in combination. The second difference, though, is the big one -- BI-1206 will also help maintain CD20 protein on the surface of the cells. That means it should cut down on Rituxan resistance, which often happens to lymphoma patients. Over time, the cancer cells stop reacting to Rituxan -- BI-1206 may cut down on that resistance. That would mean that a BI-1206/Rituxan combination would be especially effective.

Both of these FL research projects have received funding from Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. After that Lymphoma Report Card, it's nice to read some stories about some of the good things that are happening.

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