Rally for Medical Research: Help Protect Funding for Medical Research

On April 8, 2012 thousands of individuals and nearly 200 partnering programs, including representatives from the American Society of Hematology (ASH), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) gathered at the Carnegie Library grounds in Washington, D.C. for the Rally for Medical Research. Here medical research supporters sought to raise public awareness over the importance of federally funded medical research. This need has been magnified by the March 1 sequestration mandated cuts to all areas of the federal budget, and a decade long decline in funding for the National Institute of Health (NIH).

As ASH wrote, this decline in money for medical research is not a new development:

“Research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is in serious jeopardy. NIH’s inflation-adjusted budget today is almost 20 percent lower than it was in FY 2003…Under sequestration, the NIH budget will be cut by an additional $1.6 billion over the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2013. While the impact of these cuts may not be felt all at once or immediately, the harm caused to bio-medical research will be devastating- progress toward cures for deadly diseases and efforts to prevent costly chronic conditions will be slowed…”

Besides these  budgetary concerns, ASCO President Sandra M. Swain noted the human cost of such budget cuts, stressing the impressive strides made in cancer research due to federal funding:

“As a direct result of the federal investment in cancer research, we understand more about cancers than at any point in human history. This understanding of cancer at the molecular level has created unprecedented opportunities to slow the growth of cancer diseases. As a country, we can be proud that two of three people in the U.S. with cancer live at least 5 years after their diagnosis. This is up from one of two in the 1970s before the passage of the National Cancer Act. Since the 1990s, the nation’s cancer death rate has dropped 18 percent, reversing decades of increases. More than 13 million people in the U.S. are cancer survivors.”

Considering these new fiscal realities, the researchers and clinicians in the Lymphoma Program at Weill Cornell Medical College are adjusting accordingly. They will continue to do all that they can to deliver the latest in ground breaking research and clinical care.

Click here to use the ASH advocacy tool to contact your Representative and Senators about protecting medical research. Contact information for individual Representatives and Senators can be found here and here.

New Treatment for Systemic and Cutaneous T-cell Lymphomas: Antibody-drug Conjugate Brentuximab Vedotin

jruanBy Jia Ruan, MD

The peripheral T-cell lymphomas (PTCL) are uncommon lymphoid diseases that account for 5-10% of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas in adults in North America.  Compared to B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas, the PTCLs are generally aggressive and less responsive to current treatment options. Relapsed and refractory diseases are common.  Novel and target therapies are in much need to improve quality and duration of response.  At the 2012 American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in Atlanta, several research groups reported encouraging study results with the antibody-drug conjugate Brentuximab vedotin for T-cell lymphomas. Brentuximab vedotin (BV) is an anti-CD30 chimeric antibody conjugated by a protease-cleavable linker to the microtubule-disrupting agent monomethyl auristatin E. BV received accelerated FDA approval in 2011 for relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), 2 diseases that express abundant CD30.  Several new studies have looked at the treatment outcome of BV in patients with systemic or cutaneous T-cell lymphomas that express variable amount of CD30.

Studies in Systemic T-cell Lymphomas

Dr. Jacobsen from Dana Farber Cancer Institute reported an interim analysis of a phase II multicenter study which evaluated the antitumor activity of BV in patients with relapsed or refractory CD30-positive NHL. BV was administered at 1.8 mg/kg every 3 weeks by IV infusion. The study also explored the correlation between antitumor activity and quantitative CD30 expression.  Fifty-three patients with various CD30-positive NHLs have been enrolled, including 18 patients with mature T-/NK-cell lymphomas. Of the T-cell lymphoma patients enrolled, 9 have angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL), 8 have PTCL-NOS, and 1 has cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.  The ORR was 27% (3/11) for mature T-/NK-cell NHLs.  Thus far, response was particularly noteworthy in in AITL where 3 of 5 patients (60%) have responded (2 CR, 1 PR).   Treatment-emergent adverse events were generally mild and moderate (grade 1/2), and expected including peripheral neuropathy and cytopenias, which was consistent with the safety profile of BV.  CD30 expression levels for patients with a CR or PR were widely variable and ranged from <1% to 90%.  Preliminary data seems to suggest that BV may be beneficial for patients with T-cell lymphomas that have low CD30 expression. Dr. Fanale from MD Anderson Cancer Center reported a phase I study with BV administered concurrently with multi-agent chemotherapy as frontline treatment of systemic ALCL and other CD30 positive T-cell lymphomas.  The study was Continue reading “New Treatment for Systemic and Cutaneous T-cell Lymphomas: Antibody-drug Conjugate Brentuximab Vedotin”

ASH 2011: New Treatment for T-Cell Lymphoma

By Jia Ruan, MD

Update: The below mentioned trials are closed to enrollment. 

The peripheral T-cell lymphomas (PTCL) are a heterogeneous group of lymphoid diseases that constitute less than 15 percent of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas in adults in North America. The most common subtypes are 1) Peripheral T-cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified (PTCL, NOS); 2) Anaplastic large cell lymphoma, primary systemic type (ALCL); and 3) Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL).  The PTCLs are generally aggressive, and tend to run a more relapsing and less favorable clinical course compared to B-cell NHLs.  Relapsed and refractory diseases are common. Novel and target therapies are in much need.

At the recent Annual Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting, Dr. Friedberg of the University of Rochester reported the result of a phase 2 trial of Alisertib (MLN8237), a potent inhibitor of aurora A kinase, in patients with relapsed aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Aurora kinases regulate mitosis during cell division. Inhibition of aurora A kinase can lead to mitotic errors and premature cell death. Alisertib is taken orally twice daily for 7 days on 21-day cycles. This phase 2 study enrolled a total of 48 patients, including 8 patients with peripheral T-cell lymphoma. The overall response rate was 32%.  Response in T-cell NHL was the most impressive at 57%: four out of eight patients responded, and the some of the responses were durable. The response rates in DLBCL and MCL were modest around 20%. Treatment-related side effects were generally tolerable and included low blood counts, fever, fatigue and inflammation in mouth. Based on these results, additional clinical trials (phase II sponsored by SWOG / NCI and phase III sponsored by Millennium) with this orally available compound are moving forward in T-cell lymphoma. Both of these studies will be available soon at Weill Cornell Medical College  (click here to read about the SWOG/NCI trial and click here to read about the Millennium trial on clinicaltrials.gov).

Dr. Advani of Stanford University discussed the updated results of an international phase 2 study of Brentuximab vedotin (SGN-35) in patients with relapsed or refractory systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma Continue reading “ASH 2011: New Treatment for T-Cell Lymphoma”