The Fight Against Lymphoma: New Treatments Unveiled at Cancer Conference

  • New potential treatments for lymphoma were discussed by cancer experts at the annual American Society of Hematology conference.
  • They included new therapies that can possibly be used when CAR T-cell immunotherapy isn’t effective.
  • There were also developments announced in treatments that use “natural killer” cells and therapies that target cancers associated with the Epstein-Barr virus.

In fall 2005, Kevin Rakszawski had just begun his sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania when he received a diagnosis of stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Rakszawski, who was studying bioengineering and was a member of the school band, had already decided in high school that he wanted to be an oncologist.

After undergoing treatment and being declared cancer-free, he resumed his academic career. The diagnosis cemented his resolve to be a cancer specialist, and it convinced him to focus specifically on lymphomas.

Fast-forward 14 years to the annual American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference that concluded last week in Orlando, Florida.

That’s where Rakszawski was one of more than 30,000 blood cancer and other blood disease experts from 25 countries in attendance.

Rakszawski, now a medical doctor and assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, says that attending ASH reminds him just how far lymphoma research has come since he received his diagnosis.

“My main takeaway from the conference this year in the field of lymphoma is that we continue to aim for cures and long-term remissions,” Rakszawski told Healthline. “But with lymphoma patients living longer, we’re also looking to reduce toxicities associated with therapy and maximize the value of treatment.”

CAR T-cell immunotherapy

The hottest topic at ASH, once again, was CAR T-cell immunotherapy, where a person’s T cells are removed from the body, engineered in the lab so they can find and destroy cancer cells, and reinfused in the patient.

CAR T-cell therapy has been the talk of the blood cancer world for several years now.

First-generation CAR T-cell therapies, two of which were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 2 years ago, primarily target CD19, a protein on the surface of most tumor cells in B-cell cancers, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

These therapies have produced long-term remissions in about one-third of cases of B-cell lymphomas that haven’t responded to prior therapy.

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