ASCO 2021 – Lymphoma Updates

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is the world’s leading organization for physicians and oncology professionals caring for people with cancer. The 2021 Annual Meeting was hosted virtually, connecting oncology professionals from around the world to discuss the newest, state-of-the-art research and treatment updates.

The Weill Cornell Lymphoma Program team is always proud of our contributions to new lymphoma research presentations at the ASCO Annual Meeting. We’ve outlined some of the highlights from this year’s conference, including research updates and new discoveries from our team. Additionally, our Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hematology & Oncology Fellow Dr. Sam Yamshon received a prestigious ASCO Conquer Cancer Foundation 2021 Young Investigator Award to support critical lymphoma research and the transition from fellowship to faculty. 

Samuel Yamshon, MD – 2021 ASCO Young Investigator Award Recipient

Weill Cornell Lymphoma Program Chief Dr. Peter Martin presented new mantle cell lymphoma research and shared important insights about care in the community or real-world setting as part of an oral abstract session. 

Dr. John Leonard reviews an National Cancer Institute (NCI)-supported clinical trial evaluating the role of stem cell transplant in primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma treatment. 

Dr. Richard Furman explains exciting results from a phase 3 clinical trial comparing two different treatment options for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) for the first time.

Additionally, Dr. Peter Martin breaks down mantle cell lymphoma research evaluating the role of botezomib when added to bendamustine and rituximab as induction therapy.

PET scan imaging during treatment for bulky Hodgkin lymphoma can provide critical information to shape the course of care. Dr. John Leonard breaks down this NCI-supported ALLIANCE research presented this year’s ASCO meeting. 

FDA Approves First-Ever Targeted Marginal Zone Lymphoma Treatment

On January 19, 2017, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ibrutinib to treat patients that have received at least one line of prior therapy for marginal zone lymphoma (MZL), a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

MZL is an indolent B-cell lymphoma that accounts for 5-10% of all lymphomas and lacks a standard of care. Current MZL treatments include anti-CD-20 antibody therapy (e.g. rituximab) or chemotherapy. However, ibrutinib is the first-ever treatment to specifically be approved for MZL.

Ibrutinib works by inhibiting Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK), an enzyme responsible for transmitting pro-growth and survival signals from the surface of a cell to its nucleus. In this way, ibrutinib may interfere with chronic stimulation arising from inflammation in the tumor microenvironment; thus slowing the growth of B-cells.

The Weill Cornell Lymphoma Program is proud to have played a role in the phase 2 trial — the largest trial to date for people with previously treated MZL of all subtypes —leading to FDA approval for ibrutinib. Roughly half of all patients had a significant response to ibrutinib, with some degree of tumor shrinkage observed in almost 80% of all patients in the trial. Roughly one-third remained on treatment 18 months after beginning treatment.

The most common side effects included fatigue, diarrhea, and anemia. These side effects were manageable, and consistent with previous research, although some cases required the discontinuation of treatment with ibrutinib.

Results from this study support the use of ibrutinib as an effective well tolerated chemotherapy-free option for the treatment of previously treated MZL. However, some questions remain. MZL is a heterogeneous group of lymphomas, and it is unclear which subtypes might respond best to ibrutinib. With only half of all previously treated MZL patients responding to ibrutinib, improvements might be realized by combining ibrutinib with other drugs and/or using it earlier in the treatment of MZL.

At Weill Cornell, we are currently studying ibrutinib in combination with the immunotherapy drug durvalumab in people with previously treated indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including MZL.

Dr. Kristy Richards and Comparative Research for Lymphoma

Splitting her time between the main Cornell campus in Ithaca and the Weill Cornell Medical campus in New York City, Dr. Kristy Richards has developed a unique plan to research new lymphoma treatments. Lymphoma is a common form of cancer in humans and also the most common form of cancer found in dogs. So as human oncologist, Dr. Richards thought that treatments for canine patients could lead to advances in the treatment of human lymphoma patients,

“Dog and human lymphoma patients share many biological similarities, as well as the unfortunate fact that rates of the disease are rising for both species. “We don’t know why this is,” Richards says. “It could be something in the environment, which both dogs and humans share. So in a way, dogs could be a canary in the coal mine.”

“Richards plans to test cutting-edge approaches such as immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s natural defenses to fight off cancer cells, in dogs suffering from lymphoma. This September, she was awarded a supplement grant from the National Cancer Institute, in partnership with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, to further explore canine immunotherapy with veterinary patients that come to the Cornell University Hospital for Animals.”

The full article can be read here. More information about Dr. Richards work and the practical benefits so far accrued for both two and four legged lymphoma patients can be found in the below video.