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.

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.

Lymphoma in the News: No Benefit to Rituximab Maintenance Following Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation in Patients with Relapsed DLBCL

By Peter Martin, MD

Patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) that has relapsed following first-line chemotherapy are typically offered second-line chemotherapy followed by autologous stem cell transplantation (bone marrow transplantation using the patient’s own stem cells).

The CORAL study, a recently completed international phase 3 trial, evaluated whether rituximab following the transplant procedure could improve patient outcomes. The results of the study were recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting.

Following second-line chemotherapy (R-ICE or R-DHAP) and stem cell transplant, 242 patients were randomized to receive rituximab given every two months for one year or observation. By four years, there was no difference in rate of progression or survival between the two groups. Interestingly, women that received rituximab maintenance did considerably better than men that received rituximab maintenance while there was no difference in outcomes between the two genders in the observation group.

Based on these results, there does not appear to be an advantage to rituximab maintenance following stem cell transplantation for DLBCL.

Click here to read the abstract of the CORAL study results as presented at the ASCO annual meeting.

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