Global Collaboration: Lymphoma Researchers Attend Workshop at Shanghai Institute of Hematology

In early July, several researchers from the Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork-Presbyterian (WCM/NYP) Lymphoma Program traveled to Shanghai, China to participate in the first Lymphoma Research Workshop, jointly sponsored by WCM/NYP and Shanghai Institute of Hematology (SIH). The workshop aimed to foster clinical and translational research exchange and collaboration, with the goal of further global alliance with leading Chinese institutions.

Our own Drs. Leandro Cerchietti, Peter Martin, Ari Melnick, Kristy Richards, and Jia Ruan were in attendance. Drs. Melnick and Ruan co-organized the workshop with Drs. Saijuan Chen and Weili Zhao from SIH. SIH and its affiliated Ruijin Hospital (RJH) is a leader in human genomics and lymphoma research in China.

Dr. Ari Melnick (Left) and Dr. Jia Ruan

Dr. Melnick began by introducing the lymphoma research missions at WCM/NYP and provided an overview of our translational program, which integrates state-of-the-art genetic, epigenetic, and proteomic approaches to study lymphoma pathogenesis and inform development of mechanism-based therapeutics.

Dr. Zhao followed with a review of the recent lymphoma program developments at Ruijin Hospital, which focuses on building a multi-disciplinary diagnosis and treatment team. RJH’s translational development has been aimed at building a lymphoma biobank, next-generation sequencing, system biology, and biomarker investigations to support clinical research.

Dr. Peter Martin (Left) and Dr. Leandro Cerchietti

On the project level, Dr. Cerchietti discussed bench-to-bedside translation of epigenetic modifying agents, such as novel treatments that sensitize chemotherapy responses in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Dr. Martin then provided a comprehensive overview of the management approach for DLBCL in the U.S., reviewing important study design and findings of DLBCL clinical trials that incorporated novel agents, including epigenetic modifiers. Dr. Richards spoke about promises and challenges in canine lymphoma research in both the disease and drug development models.

Dr. Kristy Richards

Additionally, Dr. Pengpeng Xu from RJH presented preliminary data of a phase 1 study using an epigenetic hypomethylating agent in combination with chemotherapy for DLBCL patients. This joint clinical project developed from the two institutions’ shared translational interest and expertise in exploring therapeutic potential of epigenetic agents in lymphoma.

Drs. Ruan and Melnick concluded the workshop by thanking the hosts at the Shanghai Institute of Hematology and Ruijin Hospital for their gracious hospitality. Faculty from both institutions are impressed by the progress of the ongoing collaboration and support further development of translational and clinical projects in the future, including academic exchange and joint translational and clinical trials.


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.

Lymphoma Program Establishes Partnership to Advance Development of Targeted Lymphoma Therapies

The Lymphoma Program has recently established a cross-campus experimental therapeutics collaboration between Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell University. Known as the Progressive Assessment of Therapeutics, or P.A.Th. this partnership will harness the already existing infrastructure at the two university sites for the purpose of advancing a more rapid bench to bedside discovery process for the clinical introduction of targeted therapies.

Dr. Kristy Richards
Dr. Kristy Richards

The P.A.Th. program will be overseen by co-directors Dr. Kristy Richards and Dr. Leandro Cerchietti. Dr. Richards is an expert in comparative oncology and oncogenomics, which emphasizes the genetic/genomic approaches to understanding the biology and treatment of hematologic malignancies. Her research involves genetic mapping and genetic association approaches to understanding drug resistance in a variety of agents used to treat hematologic malignancies. Dr. Cerchietti is an expert in experimental therapeutics in lymphomas. His research involves developing of pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics biomarkers to personalize treatment regimens in pre-clinical and clinical settings.

Dr. Leandro Cerchietti
Dr. Leandro Cerchietti

In practice the collaborative program will improve the speed and accuracy of the clinical trial process, while streamlining the organization required to bring new treatments through the laboratory to the patient’s bedside. It has already seen tangible results in a recently published paper. This approach will have different manifestations. For patients with DLBCL, cell lines are the workhorse in the early development of treatments. However, the numbers and diversity of DLBCL cell lines is small, while more indolent lymphoma cell lines are difficult to maintain. Through the P.A.Th. program in collaboration with Dr. Ankur Singh of the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, researchers are developing 3-D tissue culture (organoids) on lattices that more closely simulate the micro-environment of a lymph node. This would allow for lymphoma cells taken from patients to be more successfully cultured and easily researched. The ease of developing and curating new and longer lasting cell cultures could lead to faster breakthroughs in the development of treatments.

Another focus of the P.A.Th. program is the use of better mouse models and the inclusion of pet dogs as a model for human lymphoma. Pet dogs can enroll in clinical trials, much the same way human patients can, yet this resource has mostly been overlooked.  Given Cornell University’s top-ranked veterinary school, and the high incidence of lymphoma in pet dogs, this is a resource that the P.A.Th. program is using to increase their clinical trial capacity in lymphoma research. This will save the lives of both 2 legged and 4 legged patients.

Taken together these improvements and others should make for a comparatively quicker and more accurate therapeutic development strategy. Considering, its multidisciplinary approach and high quality capabilities this collaboration is poised to be a leader in the development of new therapeutics for lymphoma. As Dr. Richards, noted, “Think of this P.A.Th. program as a bridge that connects the incredible lymphoma basic and translational research that is already happening throughout the Cornell campuses, with Cornell’s excellent patient care. The results will provide a very compelling therapeutic development strategy that should provide hope to patients with lymphoma and other types of cancer.”

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