The power of a strong doctor-patient partnership and positivity when fighting lymphoma

Relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) cancer survivor Louise (left) and her oncologist, Dr. Ruemu Birhiray (right), built a lasting relationship as they navigated Louise’s diagnosis and relapse. This article is sponsored by MorphoSys and Incyte.

After hearing the words “you have cancer,” a person’s life instantly changes. Once the initial shock wears off, patients and their caregivers are often met with significant fear and uncertainty for the future. For Louise, a mother of five and grandmother to many more, after learning she had cancer, her oncologist, Dr. Ruemu Birhiray, MD, Hematology Oncology of Indiana, quickly assured her that they were going to fight her disease together. They adopted the motto “for every problem, there is a solution,” which would become an important mantra for Louise throughout her cancer journey.

Louise’s cancer story began in November 2019 when she went for a routine check-up. The doctors took her vitals and quickly noticed her pulse was high. Urgently, they recommended Louise go to the emergency room. Once there, Louise was given a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan and informed that she needed to see an oncologist.

That oncologist turned out to be Dr. Birhiray, who diagnosed Louise with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), which affects approximately 28,000 people per year in the United States. DLBCL is a fast-growing but treatable cancer affecting B-lymphocytes, also known as B cells, a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infections. As they develop, cancerous B cells become larger than normal and multiply uncontrollably.

“Meeting Dr. Birhiray, I realized pretty quickly that he was going to take good care of me,” said Louise. “One of the first things you notice with Dr. Birhiray is how warm of a person he is. It felt like he was talking to me, not at me, and he was very attentive to my needs and questions.”

It felt like he was talking to me, not at me, and he was very attentive to my needs and questions.

After going through an intensive chemotherapy regimen, Louise was thrilled to hear that her DLBCL had gone into remission, only to learn six months later that the cancer had returned. That unfortunately made Louise one of up to 50% of patients whose DLBCL relapses (returns) or does not respond to treatment (becomes refractory).

While initially devasted to hear the cancer had returned, Louise and Dr. Birhiray swiftly worked together to determine next steps.

“When Louise’s cancer relapsed after initial treatment, I wanted to take a different approach,” said Dr. Birhiray. “For her next treatment, I initially thought about doing a bone marrow transplant, but together we decided it wasn’t appropriate. So I considered a different treatment regimen that had proven results in certain patients and did not require a hospital stay.”

Dr. Birhiray again assured Louise that for every challenge, there are options. For Louise, that option was ultimately Monjuvi® (tafasitamab-cxix) – a targeted immunotherapy treatment given with another medicine called lenalidomide to treat adults with certain types of DLBCL that has come back or that did not respond to previous treatment and who cannot receive a stem cell transplant.

Shortly after beginning treatment with Monjuvi and lenalidomide, Louise had to go to another unrelated check-up that involved a CAT scan, where she received extremely encouraging news: her cancer was showing rapid improvement. A couple of months later, a positron emission tomography (PET) scan revealed there were no detectable signs of cancer in her body.

“It was such a relief to no longer see any cancer on the CAT scan and to have confirmation that treatment with Monjuvi had worked for me,” said Louise. “I’m very grateful to Dr. Birhiray and my healthcare team for helping me through my journey with DLBCL so far. They are always so positive and honest with me, and I feel like they listened to my needs and included me in important decisions, which made getting through treatment so much easier.”

Louise is representative of a patient responding to Monjuvi. Every patient is different and individual results may vary. Louise continues to be under the care of Dr. Birhiray who routinely checks to make sure her cancer has not returned. Please read the Important Safety Information below to learn more about the side effects of Monjuvi.

Dr. Birhiray was also pleased by Louise’s results with Monjuvi. From their very first meeting, he had worked closely with Louise to develop a treatment plan that took into account her individual needs and circumstances.

According to Dr. Birhiray, it is also critical to involve patients in treatment-related decisions by having open and honest conversations about their options and what will happen in their body with certain treatments, including possible side effects. Beyond the effects of treatments, Dr. Birhiray believes it is important to account for a patient’s treatment goals, which includes factors such as the experience they are seeking while undergoing treatment and their life goals while on and following treatment.

“As an oncologist, you really need to get to know your patient and establish trust from the beginning” said Dr. Birhiray. “More than just knowing their names, you need to know their bodies and understand their disease and how it affects them in order to develop a treatment plan that meets their needs. This requires in-depth conversations that can take upwards of an hour, in which I ensure my patients are knowledgeable about the treatment they are about to undergo and how it will affect them, and to understand how they are feeling.”

Louise’s DLBCL continues to be in remission and she has a positive outlook for her future. She hopes her story can inspire others to build relationships with their doctors like the one she has with Dr. Birhiray.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have found Dr. Birhiray and received a treatment for my DLBCL that led to remission,” said Louise. “I feel strongly that my outcome is a result of the partnership with my oncologist, working together to come up with a treatment plan that was right for me.”

If you, like Louise, have DLBCL that came back or didn’t respond to the first treatment (relapsed or refractory DLBCL), start a conversation with your healthcare team about your options. To learn more about Monjuvi, DLBCL and for support and resources, visit www.Monjuvi.com.

What is MONJUVI?

MONJUVI (tafasitamab-cxix) is a prescription medicine given with lenalidomide to treat adults with certain types of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) that has come back (relapsed) or that did not respond to previous treatment (refractory) and who cannot receive a stem cell transplant.

It is not known if MONJUVI is safe and effective in children.

The approval of MONJUVI is based on a type of response rate. There is an ongoing study to confirm the clinical benefit of MONJUVI.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

What are the possible side effects of MONJUVI?

MONJUVI may cause serious side effects, including

  • Infusion reactions. Your healthcare provider will monitor you for infusion reactions during your infusion of MONJUVI. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get fever, chills, flushing, headache, or shortness of breath during an infusion of MONJUVI
  • Low blood cell counts (platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells). Low blood cell counts are common with MONJUVI, but can also be serious or severe. Your healthcare provider will monitor your blood counts during treatment with MONJUVI. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get a fever of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or above, or any bruising or bleeding
  • Infections. Serious infections, including infections that can cause death, have happened in people during treatment with MONJUVI and after the last dose. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get a fever of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or above, or develop any signs or symptoms of an infection

The most common side effects of MONJUVI include

  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Swelling of lower legs or hands
  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Decreased appetite

These are not all the possible side effects of MONJUVI. Your healthcare provider will give you medicines before each infusion to decrease your chance of infusion reactions. If you do not have any reactions, your healthcare provider may decide that you do not need these medicines with later infusions. Your healthcare provider may need to delay or completely stop treatment with MONJUVI if you have severe side effects.

Before you receive MONJUVI, tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, including if you

  • Have an active infection or have had one recently
  • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. MONJUVI may harm your unborn baby. You should not become pregnant during treatment with MONJUVI. Do not receive treatment with MONJUVI in combination with lenalidomide if you are pregnant because lenalidomide can cause birth defects and death of your unborn baby
    • You should use an effective method of birth control (contraception) during treatment and for at least 3 months after your last dose of MONJUVI
    • Tell your healthcare provider right away if you become pregnant or think you may be pregnant during treatment with MONJUVI
  • Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if MONJUVI passes into your breastmilk. Do not breastfeed during treatment and for at least 3 months after your last dose of MONJUVI

You should also read the lenalidomide Medication Guide for important information about pregnancy, contraception, and blood and sperm donation.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medications you take, including prescription and over- the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at (800) FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch. You may also report side effects to MORPHOSYS US INC. at (844) 667-1992.

DIRECTIONALS TO THE PI:

Please see the full Prescribing Information, including Patient Information, for additional Important Safety Information.

These participants were compensated for their time.

RC-US-TAF-01576 August 2022