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. 

Initial Treatment with Lenalidomide Plus Rituximab for Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL): 7-Year Analysis from a Multi-Center Phase II Study

At the 2020 Annual Meeting of the American Hematology Society (ASH), the Weill Cornell Medicine mantle cell lymphoma research team presented the 7-year long-term outcome analysis of the first study of a non-chemotherapy frontline treatment regimen with lenalidomide plus rituximab as induction and maintenance therapy for mantle cell lymphoma (MCL).  

The multi-center phase 2 study, led by study chair Dr. Jia Ruan, was initiated in 2011 and previously reported early efficacy in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and 5-year follow-up results in Blood, which was highly effective with an overall response rate (ORR) of 92%, and complete response (CR) of 64%. It was also well tolerated, with durable responses, including the 5-year progression free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) of 64% and 77% respectively. Dr. Samuel Yamshon, a second-year hematology and medical oncology fellow at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital led the oral presentation of the 7-year follow up analysis at this year’s ASH meeting.

The study treatment is conveniently administered in the outpatient setting, with the oral agent lenalidomide given on days 1-21 of a 28-day cycle and rituximab provided once very other cycle during maintenance. The treatment continues until progression of disease, with an option to stop therapy after 3 years of remission.

A total of 38 clinical trial participants were enrolled at four participating centers across the United States. Of the 36 evaluable patients, 19 (53%) of the patients remain in remission, including 12 (33%) beyond 7 years. Of the patients in remission, 10 remain on treatment, while 9 patients in remission opted to stop therapy after at least 3 years of study treatment due to side effects or patient preference. The median progression free survival (PFS) and duration of response have not been reached. The 7-year PFS rate was estimated at 60%, and 7-year OS rates at 73%. With long-term maintenance treatment, there were no new safety concerns, and close follow up limited toxicity for those who wished to remain on therapy.

The long-term outcome of the lenalidomide plus rituximab regimen represents a major stride in the treatment and care of MCL patients – a population of patients who harbor a rare and generally incurable disease where intensive chemotherapy regimens do not necessarily translate into cure and may not be tolerated by all. It is notable that this combination therapy offers a chemotherapy-free initial treatment approach that compares favorably in outcome to conventional chemotherapy-based regimens such as bendamustine-rituximab, VR-CAP, and R-CHOP with rituximab maintenance. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has incorporated this evidence into their treatment guidelines for MCL patients. The Weill Cornell Lymphoma Program researchers concluded that the evaluation of this active regimen in larger, randomized frontline trials comparing novel agents with chemoimmunotherapy is warranted. 

704 Initial Treatment with Lenalidomide Plus Rituximab for Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL): 7-Year Analysis from a Multi-Center Phase II Study
Type: Oral presentation
Session: 623. Mantle Cell and Indolent B-Cell Lymphoma – CAR-T and immunotherapy clinical studies

Monday, December 7, 2020: 2:30 PM 

ASH 2020 Weill Cornell Medicine Lymphoma Program Conference Coverage

Mantle Cell Lymphoma PALIBR Outcomes Published Online in Blood Journal

The oral Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor ibrutinib has become a mainstay in the treatment of mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), producing a response in nearly 70 percent of all patients. Yet, the majority of MCL patients treated with ibrutinib develop resistance to the drug within about a year.

Preclinical research conducted at Weill Cornell Medicine demonstrated that sustained inhibition of CDK4 (a protein that promotes growth of MCL cells) by the oral drug palbociclib can not only prevent proliferation of MCL cells, but also make them more sensitive to attack by ibrutinib.

Based on these findings, Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Lymphoma Program Chief Dr. Peter Martin and colleagues initiated a phase I study of palbociclib plus ibrutinib (PALIBR) in patients with previously treated MCL. Results from the all-oral regimen were recently published online in the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Blood Journal.

The addition of palbociclib to ibrutinib appeared to produce deeper, more durable responses compared to what is traditionally produced by ibrutinib alone, with over half of all patients remaining free of disease progression at the two-year post-treatment mark. The most prevalent side effect was low blood counts.

Weill Cornell Medicine“The first person to be treated on the study in August of 2014 achieved a complete response within three months and remains in a complete response today,” said Dr. Martin. “We were all excited by the results.”

Physicians and researchers at the Lymphoma Program look forward to learning more about the efficacy of PALIBR in the ongoing AFT-32 phase II trial, which incorporates genetic profiling that may help to identify the features associated with drug resistance.