ASCO 2013: Post-therapy Surveillance Imaging has Limited Use in Detection of Relapse of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

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By Peter Martin, MD

Despite the frequent use of routine post-therapy imaging as a means of early detection of lymphoma relapse, there is limited evidence that regular scanning improves patient outcomes. Two groups reported on their experience with surveillance imaging at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

Dr. Quoc Van Truong of the West Virginia School of Medicine retrospectively evaluated 77 patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma that had relapsed after achieving a complete response with initial treatment. Despite the frequent use of routine imaging, nearly 80% of relapses were detected by patient-reported symptoms and not surveillance imaging. Overall, there was no survival difference between the groups of patients whose relapse had been detected by scans versus those reporting additional symptoms. Additionally, surveillance imaging led to 2 false positive scans resulting in unnecessary invasive procedures.

Dr. Carrie A. Thomas of the Mayo Clinic reported on an analysis of 644 patients with DLBCL seen at the Mayo Clinic or University of Iowa between 2002 and 2009. A total of 537 patients entered post-treatment observation, and 109 of these patients relapsed while 41 died from other causes. At the time of relapse, 68% were symptomatic, 42% had an abnormal physical exam, 55% elevated LDH, and 87% had more than one of these features. Of the 38 patients whose relapse was detected during a planned visit, 26 displayed clinical features of relapse, while the relapse of the other 12 patients was detected by planned surveillance scan. Of these 12 relapses exclusively detected by the planned surveillance scan; 4 presented a low-grade or other subtype and 8 had DLBCL (4 of whom had equivocal/positive scans at the end of treatment). The authors concluded that post-therapy surveillance scans have little value in detecting DLBCL relapse.

These studies add to the growing body of literature suggesting that lymphoma patients that achieve a complete remission from first-line therapy may not benefit from routine imaging. We recommend that patients discuss plans for post-treatment surveillance with their physician.

Weill Cornell Breakthrough Research: Shutting Down DLBCL Master Protein; Potential for New Treatments

Reporting in Nature Immunology, Weill Cornell’s Dr. Ari Melnick and his research team have reported an important research breakthrough in diffuse large-B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) that may offer hope for new treatments for aggressive lymphomas.

Dr. Melnick has found that it is possible to shut down the protein Bcl6, a powerful master regulatory transcription factor that is the key to survival for many aggressive lymphomas arising from the B-cells.

“The finding comes as a very welcome surprise,” says the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Ari Melnick, Gebroe Family Professor of Hematology/Oncology and director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical and Physical Sciences at Weill Cornell.

The protein Bcl6 was previously considered too complex to target with individual drugs, because of its centrality in the functioning of the body’s healthy immune cells.

“This means the drugs we have developed against Bcl6 are more likely to be significantly less toxic and safer for patients with this cancer than we realized,” says Dr. Melnick.

DLBCL is the most common subtype of non-Hodgkin lymphoma — the seventh most frequently diagnosed cancer, with many patients resistant to currently available treatments. Presently, there are ongoing clinical trials for those suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other forms of lymphoma at the Weill Cornell Lymphoma Center.

The full press release can be read here.

ASCO Update: Lenalidomide + Rituximab Superior to Lenalidomide Alone in Relapsed Lymphoma

John Leonard, MD

At the recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), Dr. John Leonard, the director of the Weill Cornell Lymphoma Program, presented the results of the CALGB 50401 trial. The trial compared lenalidomide plus rituximab versus lenalidomide alone in 94 patients with previously treated follicular lymphoma.

Although significant side effects were similar in both treatment arms, the patients treated with the lenalidomide plus rituximab were more likely to respond to treatment (75% vs. 49%) and remain on treatment compared to lenalidomide alone. Based on these results, the investigators concluded that the lenalidomide-rituximab regimen should be considered as a platform for addition of new drugs in future studies.

Click here to read the published abstract.

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