A Focus on a Cure for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Most non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be cured, but new drugs are needed.
BY Debu Tripathy, MD
PUBLISHED November 22, 2014
This issue is our first in CURE’s new home, with a welcome to new team members and best wishes to some of our editorial members who are now departing. Our mission remains the same—to cover both the science and humanity of the field of cancer.
Our winter 2014 issue is a reflection of topics requested by our readers, our advisory board of cancer experts and our editorial staff. Our feature story on lymphoma deserves some additional mention. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is not the most common of cancers, but it has garnered attention in the medical field because of its interesting biology, and shortly after the last mid-century, its sudden curability with the advent of combination chemotherapy. Any oncologist will tell you that the board exam questions are represented disproportionately by lymphoma questions, because it is critical that doctors be proficient in their knowledge regarding the most curable diseases. I was fascinated in medical school when my instructor at Duke University, Michael Borowitz, explained new classifications of lymphoma based on the class of malignant lymphocytes determined by antibody staining—an area that he was just beginning to pioneer in the early 1980s. He is now a professor at Johns Hopkins University, and the field of lymphoma continues to advance at a rapid clip.
Thankfully, most cases are now cured, but there is still a need in cases that relapse or never respond to chemotherapy. One of the first targeted drugs, Rituxan (rituximab), an antibody to the lymphocyte receptor CD20, was approved in 1997 and continues to be a key contributor to the treatment of B-cell lymphocyte malignancies that express CD20. But we also highlight several newer drugs in this issue, including other antibodies to CD20 and to other B-cell surface proteins, similar antibodies bound to radioactive particles, and drugs that block growth signals initiated by receptors on lymphoma cells. Can the use of these drugs earlier in the course of a disease make it more curable? Can we learn more about lymphoma and come up with new treatments? Research will answer those questions. We have come a long way, but we still have some distance to go.
Debu Tripathy, MD
Professor of Medicine Chair, Department of Breast Medical Oncology
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center