Tag Archive for: B cells

Understanding Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) and Its Subtypes

Understanding Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) and Its Subtypes from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What should patients know about diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and its subtypes? Expert Dr. Loretta Nastoupil defines DLBCL, discusses the subtypes of DLBCL and reviews the potential impact on treatment options.

Dr. Loretta Nastoupil is Director of the Lymphoma Outcomes Database in the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Nastoupil, here.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

So, let’s start with a basic question, what is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma or DLBCL?

Dr. Nastoupil:

That’s a really important question. And I spend a lot of time when I first meet patients explaining to them there are a lot of different terms that are thrown around in lymphoma. Particularly, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a term many patients will hear and even use. And I remind them that that is sort of an umbrella term that describes essentially every lymphoma that’s not Hodgkin lymphoma.

So, it’s really important to recognize that there are unique types of large cell lymphoma. And almost everything that we care about in terms of what the treatment will look like, whether or not we’re aiming to cure someone, or just maintain adequate disease control is primarily focused on the type of lymphoma someone has.

So, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is the most common lymphoma subtype. Just in terms of its descriptive name, it is a B-cell cancer. And it is comprised of large cells that are essentially effacing or replacing the architecture of a lymph node.

There are different types, which I’m sure we’ll discuss. But, again, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is our most frequent lymphoma we encounter.

Katherine:

What is B cell? What does that mean?

Dr. Nastoupil:

Sure. So, stepping back a little bit, I think most people when they know or have known someone with cancer, it is described as the organ it originates in. So, breast cancer’s a great example. That usually is breast tissue that is abnormal. It has malignant potential. And if it spreads beyond its capsule and specifically goes to a lymph node or another organ, generally that’s bad news.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system. And there are various types of immune cells. B cells – they mature on and become plasma cells when they’re behaving normally. And their job is to generate antibodies so that we can develop immunity from exposures or infections we’ve had and we’ve recovered from.

So, if you develop a cancer in the B cell, depending what stage of development – if it’s a stem cell, for instance, that can lead to acute leukemia. If it’s an immature B cell, meaning it has not developed into a plasma cell, that’s, generally, where diffuse large B-cell lymphoma arises. So, these cells tend to live or spend most of their time in lymph nodes because they’re trying to mimic the behavior of a normal B cell where they’re waiting there for that exposure to happen.

So, these are generally not cancers that we try to cut out before they spread. They’re not spreading cancers in terms of how we generally think of those, meaning you’re not going to use surgery to treat it. And, oftentimes, there are malignant B cells kind of dispersed throughout the body because if you think about how your immune system should work, it should be able to fight off an infection anywhere and everywhere.

So, I think those are key things to keep in mind because oftentimes patients will have widespread involvement or lymph node involvement or bone involvement, and that’s just the nature of the disease and not necessarily something that is so far progressed we didn’t catch it early enough.

Katherine:

I see. Are there subtypes of DLBCL?

Dr. Nastoupil:

Yes, absolutely. So, again, stepping back, over the last 20 years, we have tried to understand why we’re able to cure about 60 percent of patients. But for the 40 percent that were not cured with standard treatment, their outcomes were generally poor, meaning most of those patients died as a result of their lymphoma.

And we’ve approached all of them the same. So, that would imply to us that there’s something inherently different about the large cell lymphoma cases that don’t respond to standard treatment. So, an attempt to try and define who those patients are before we initiate treatment, as technology has evolved, we’ve interrogated some of those biopsy samples to try and understand is there an underlying biologic rationale as to why some patients would have very, very disparate outcomes?

So, what we’ve learned is there are genes that are differentiated between different subtypes of large cell lymphoma. And we’ve described those subtypes based off those gene expression patterns. So, there is a germinal center type of large cell lymphoma. There’s a non-germinal center or activated B-cell type.

And then it gets much more complicated meaning there’s probably far more than just two subtypes. Right now, we’re describing at least five different subtypes. I think what’s important for patients to know is that we view this in terms of being able to predict who’s not going to have the typical course. And if we can define who they are, we might pursue something different, including potentially a clinical trial.

So, the subtypes I care the most about right now in terms of defining are the double hit or double expressors, those with other features that might lend itself to targeted therapy.

So, this is an evolving field and will continue I’m sure – that will have more subtypes defined over time. 

An Expert Review of DLBCL Research and Treatment Advances

An Expert Review of DLBCL Research and Treatment Advances from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What’s the latest in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) treatment advances? Expert Dr. Robert Dean provides an update about emerging DLBCL research and explains recent treatment approvals for relapsed DLBCL patients.

Dr. Robert Dean is a hematologist/medical oncologist at Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Learn more about Dr. Dean, here.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Is there emerging DLBCL research that you feel patients should know about?

Dr. Dean:

I would say, “yes.” One of the things that has really been striking for me in the last few years alone in caring for patients with large B-cell lymphoma is how we’ve gone from a more surface-level understanding as we’ve been talking about what some of the differences are between different cases of large B-cell lymphoma to being able to get a better readout of why the lymphomas sometimes behave the way they do.

I want to be careful to make sure that patients who might be listening to this understand that we still don’t have a crystal ball. We can’t review their biopsy, look at their scans, and tell you, “I know that if you get R-CHOP you’re going to be cured.” Or if they’re a high-risk situation we can’t look into a crystal ball and tell them, “I know that R-CHOP won’t work for you, and you should do this tougher, more intensive treatment.”

We still see a lot of outcomes that we can’t necessarily predict from those other kinds of tools. They just give us a better sense of what the odds are for people as we’re at the start trying to make decisions about what to do. Another element that has really been striking has been the introduction of engineered T-cell immune therapy, which has provided an option for cure for some patients that otherwise we wouldn’t have had an option, and worked for about half the patients that go through it overall.

What’s coming down the road in clinical trials that are still ongoing is information that’ll help us decide if that approach to treatment should move to being second in line instead of a stem cell transplant for some patients, and they’re even doing studies looking at whether, for very high-risk patients, adding a CAR T-cell treatment onto the end of initial chemotherapy leaves them better off in the long run.

So, those are questions that will take some time to answer with ongoing studies, but I think are really exciting because they’re taking advantage of some of these newer treatment approaches that we know are helping some patients when their first attempts at treatment didn’t work and seeing if they might leave them better off if we use them earlier in the process.

There are other studies ongoing looking at seeing if we can improve upon the results that we get with treatments like R-CHOP as the first pass at treatment. Many such studies have been done and have not shown any benefit by adding this drug or that to the standard R-CHOP treatment, but there have been a few new drugs approved for treating people with large B-cell lymphoma after it’s relapsed in the last few years. For example, one called polatuzumab vedotin. Another combination of the drug lenalidomide and a new antibody-based drug called tafasitamab.

And then there’s another drug called loncastuximab. So, there’re studies going on with all of those looking at whether they offer more benefits to patients if we use them earlier in the game. 

Key Steps Following a DLBCL Diagnosis

Key Steps Following a DLBCL Diagnosis from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are key steps to take after a diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) diagnosis? Expert Dr. Robert Dean shares advice for newly diagnosed DLBCL patients to access optimal care.

Dr. Robert Dean is a hematologist/medical oncologist at Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Learn more about Dr. Dean, here

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Yeah, of course. What three key pieces of advice would you have for a patient who’s just been diagnosed with DLBCL?

Dr. Dean:

The first, I would say, is always consider getting a second opinion. I would say that’s true for a patient who’s receiving care with a local oncologist who sees and treats all forms of cancer and who’s very close to home. But I would say that’s true for someone who comes and sees me as an oncologist who treats only lymphoma patients. You should never worry about hurting your doctor’s feelings by going and talking to someone else to get another perspective on their case. The second is that they should make sure that their biopsy has been checked for the other tissue-based predicting factors that we talked about earlier that can help give a better idea of whether their chances of cure are higher or possibly lower with standard R-CHOP treatment.

And if they’re in a higher-risk group that might have a lower chance of cure with R-CHOP, then they should ask, “should I be receiving a different kind of treatment?” And then, the third thing I would say is, they should always ask, “is there a clinical trial that’s a good fit for my situation. And if there isn’t one here, is there one somewhere else that’s worth me considering even if it might mean me traveling somewhere?”

Katherine:

Right.

Dr. Dean:

There’re always a lot of clinical trials around. And if there’s a good clinical trial that’s a fit for someone’s medical situation, and I would say, if it’s pretty close to the care that they need already and is asking an additional question and possibly providing an additional element to the treatment that may be helpful and that will help us learn something along the way, then in my mind that’s the best-case scenario. 

Relapsed DLBCL Treatment: What Are the Options?

Relapsed DLBCL Treatment: What Are the Options? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are the treatment options for relapsed diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)? Expert Dr. Robert Dean explains approaches for relapsed DLBCL patients and considerations that may alter the treatment course. 

Dr. Robert Dean is a hematologist/medical oncologist at Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Learn more about Dr. Dean, here.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Are treatment considerations different for patients with relapsed disease?

Dr. Dean:

I’d say that they’re similar in a lot of ways. The first is, in my mind, again, is the patient that I’m seeing somebody who could potentially tolerate treatment that would be given with the goal of trying to cure their lymphoma on a second try?

Some patients with relapsed large B-cell lymphoma can be cured with the most common standard second-line approach, which is to get them back into remission with some standard chemotherapy, and then to follow that with a very intensive course of high-dose chemotherapy as a one-time treatment that’s given with a stem cell transplant using the patient’s own preserved healthy bone marrow stem cells. That treatment’s effective in about half of patients that can undergo it and you need to be pretty fit medically and in an overall physical sense to be able to get through that treatment okay and have a good healthy recovery afterward.

So, it’s not for everyone, but it is doable in a lot of patients. The other questions or considerations that I think are important are if a patient is sort of on the border in terms of their overall health and their willingness to undergo really rigorous intensive treatment as a second try.

We have to look, in a balanced way, at what their goals are as an individual and what it’s going to take for them to try to reach those goals. I don’t easily back away from recommending to someone that I think has a shot at cure that they should go for it if they’re medically in reasonable shape to try for that. But there’re some people who, after their initial course of treatment, decide that they don’t want to pursue intensive treatment anymore and would rather go with a lower-intensity approach that might not have the potential for cure, but that wouldn’t be as demanding of them physically or logistically.

The logistics are another factor for some patients because most patients with large B-cell lymphoma can get treated with a standard treatment approach like R-CHOP as their initial treatment at someplace that’s easily accessible to them where they live.

But the advanced treatments that are used to try to cure patients with relapsed large cell lymphoma, like a stem cell transplant, or like engineered CAR T-cell therapy, are only offered at large hospital-based cancer centers. And for some people, signing up to go and undergo that kind of treatment, to go through a long hospital stay, to be far away from family and home for a long time like that, and then have a longer recovery afterward, is something that they aren’t always comfortable with and really need some coaching through to figure out how all that aligns with their goals.

Most people, in my experience, are willing to go through what they have to if we think, and if they feel like, they’ve got a decent shot at getting cured on a second try. But that’s part of the discussion that we have when we’re talking about what their options are because there are less intensive approaches available.

They just don’t carry that same potential for cure.

Factors That Guide a DLBCL Treatment Decision

Factors That Guide a DLBCL Treatment Decision from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What factors impact diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) treatment decisions? Expert Dr. Robert Dean shares key considerations, such as a patient’s health and risk factors, in determining DLBCL treatment options.

Dr. Robert Dean is a hematologist/medical oncologist at Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Learn more about Dr. Dean, here.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

What are the main factors you take into consideration before a treatment approach is decided on?

Dr. Dean:

From the perspective of the biology of the lymphoma itself, it’s making sure that the tissue samples have been worked up in a thorough enough way to give us the information that we’ve already been discussing, especially to rule out or to identify when there’s a double-hit kind of chromosomal change in the lymphoma cells because for most patients that abnormality does call for a different approach from the usual R-CHOP treatment.

And not all treatment centers are equipped to give those more intensive treatments. So, someone who’s got a standard and, what I would consider to be a lower-risk case of large B-cell lymphoma, could be served very well receiving standard outpatient R-CHOP chemotherapy under the care of a local oncologist who’s taking care of patients in their community.

But someone who’s got a higher-risk situation, like a double-hit large cell lymphoma, would probably be better served to at least be seen in consultation by someone who’s got more specialized expertise in treating higher-risk lymphoma patients at a referral center. Beyond that, you have to also take into account a number of patient factors. Because diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is potentially curable with standard treatments, even the high-risk cases that’s true.

The first question that I always ask myself when I’m evaluating a new patient is, “is there anything about this person’s health that would make it impossible or highly risky for them to tolerate the standard treatments that we use to try to cure our patients?” If they’re a candidate for curative-intent treatment, then we decide what the most appropriate treatment would be from there.

The second question is, as we talked about before, is R-CHOP a reasonable standard approach for that patient, or do they have other risk factors that would suggest that you’d need to do something different, such as rituximab and EPOCH treatment or another more intensive regimen for a double-hit case? There’s a subgroup of patients who have large cell lymphoma that arises in the testicle in men and those patients are at increased risk for having the lymphoma show up later as a recurrence in the nervous system. There are studies that suggest that if you add some elements to the treatment to try to prevent that, that it may reduce that risk.

Katherine:

Okay.

Dr. Dean:

And then I think the last thing I would say is, with any patient I consider, are they eligible for a clinical trial that’s looking at a novel approach to treating large cell lymphoma and, if there is a clinical trial that they’d be eligible for, is that a good fit for their situation?

We know that our best treatment approaches that we currently have for standard of care right now still don’t prevent relapses in some patients and we want to continue to be able to offer our patients better treatment approaches and the only way that we can do that is by testing new ideas in clinical trials. So, I always ask myself, “Is this patient eligible for a trial, and do we have a trial or do I know of a trial that would be a good fit for them?” 

How Does Your DLBCL Subtype Impact Your Treatment Options?

How Does Your DLBCL Subtype Impact Your Treatment Options? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How does a patient’s diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) subtype impact their treatment options? Expert Dr. Robert Dean explains the most widely used DLBCL treatment approach as well as options for highly aggressive subtypes.

Dr. Robert Dean is a hematologist/medical oncologist at Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Learn more about Dr. Dean, here.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

So, how does a patient’s subtype impact their treatment options?

Dr. Dean:

It’s getting there slowly. Right now, the most widely used initial treatment for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is still the monoclonal antibody rituximab (Rituxan) and the combination chemotherapy regimen called CHOP, or R-CHOP as it’s called for short all together. And for patients with lymphomas that are not the so-called double-hit type, at least in our center, R-CHOP is still the standard, most commonly used approach to treat those cases. For the double-hit cases, studies have shown that their results with R-CHOP treatment are significantly worse than what you see with the cases that are not double-hit lymphomas.

And because of that, a lot of lymphoma treatment programs have looked to other approaches to treatment that are a little more intensive, similar to what we use for highly aggressive lymphomas, such as Burkitt lymphoma, to see if we can do better for those patients. And the one that we most commonly use here at our center for the double-hit lymphoma cases is a regimen that’s called R-EPOCH, where you take the drugs that are in the R-CHOP, add an extra chemotherapy medicine, and give them in a different manner that provides a more prolonged exposure to the chemotherapy drugs with each round of treatment and also provides for some tailoring of the chemotherapy doses from one round of treatment to the next.

There aren’t any great controlled trials yet that prove that stronger treatment regimens like R-EPOCH are better for the double-hit cases of large cell lymphoma than the tried-and-true R-CHOP regimen that’s used for most other situations.

But there are what we call uncontrolled studies or retrospective studies that have looked at patients treated with those higher intensity regimens, and they at least suggest that patients treated with those approaches look like they do better than what you would have expected with the R-CHOP approach. And then there are a few less common subtypes of large cell lymphoma that are more specific and are treated in more unique ways.

For example, large B-cell lymphoma can arise in the brain only in rare cases and when that occurs it’s treated using an approach that’s really geared toward ensuring that you’re giving chemotherapy drugs that can effectively get into the brain tissue and attack the lymphoma cells there. Once in a while, you see someone who’s got both of those situations going on at once, lymphoma growing in the lymph node system or other places in the body outside of the nervous system, and lymphoma growing in the nervous system at the same time, and you need to make adjustments in how you treat those cases, too. 

What Are the Subtypes of DLBCL?

What Are the Subtypes of DLBCL? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are the subtypes of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)? Expert Dr. Robert Dean provides an overview of DLBCL subtypes and how treatments and outcomes can vary by a patient’s individual disease.

Dr. Robert Dean is a hematologist/medical oncologist at Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Learn more about Dr. Dean, here.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Dr. Dean, welcome. Would you please introduce yourself?

Dr. Dean:

Certainly, and thank you for having me. My name’s Rob Dean, and I’m a hematologist and medical oncologist and a staff physician at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute.

Katherine:

Excellent. Thank you. Let’s start with looking at understanding and treating DLBCL. What are the subtypes of DLBCL?

Dr. Dean:

The classification of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma has gotten a little more complicated as our understanding of it has gotten deeper. Once upon a time going back maybe 15, 20 years an awful lot of cases were sort of lumped together under the broad label of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and we always understood in the field that some patients did very well and were cured with the standard treatments of the time and that those treatments didn’t work as well for some patients.

And it’s taken years to get to a somewhat deeper understanding of what the underlying differences are in those cases that help to explain why our treatment outcomes differ for different patients, and I would say that’s feeding forward into trying to identify better treatment options for the patients who are in higher-risk groups. So, one way of understanding the heterogeneity in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the differences between cases, is to think about the way in which the normal cells of the immune system that turn into this kind of cancer develop. If you think about the old Time-Life Magazine illustration of the evolution of man where you see the series of figures drawn from left to right going from sort of more primitive, kind of a –

Katherine:

Ape-like.

Dr. Dean:

– ape-like figure to a progressively more modern-looking human standing upright and walking on just their legs. The way that these immune cells, which are the antibody-making B cells of the immune system, develop from a more primitive cell, you can think of it in similar terms. And we understand that cases of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma most commonly arise from a couple of points in that process of maturation that these cells are passing through as they go from the most primitive form that they take to their most mature functional form in the end.

So, one of those subgroups is something called the germinal-centered B-cell. And that involves the part of the maturation process where these immune cells have left the bone marrow, passed into a lymph node, and are interacting with other immune cells as part of their education and development process.

When the cells mutate at that stage of their development and turn into diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the cure rate for patients with large cell lymphomas coming from that stage of immune cell development tends to be a little higher with standard treatments. When the lymphoma cells arise from an immune cell that has passed beyond that point in the maturation process to what is referred to as an activated B-cell, then the cure rates with standard treatment historically have been a little lower.

And so, you can look at markers on the lymphoma cells, or the activation of different genes in the lymphoma cells, to try to determine whether they came from an immune cell that was in one or the other of those points in its maturation process. And we know that that correlates with outcomes. So, that’s one of the main breakdowns that have become possible in understanding sort of what’s going on under the hood in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and why do we see different outcomes in different patients.

Katherine:

Right.

Dr. Dean:

The other major change comes from understanding that for cases of large B-cell lymphoma there are common chromosomal changes that result in turning on specific genes. And if some of those genes are present in the right combination, that can create a much more rapidly growing and more chemotherapy-resistant form of large B-cell lymphoma. The two genes that are most commonly involved in that kind of a change are something called BCL-2 which, when it’s turned on abnormally, helps protect the lymphoma cells from being killed or being sort of triggered into dying by chemotherapy medicine.

And another gene that’s called MYC, or M-Y-C is how that’s spelled, and what that gene does is it tends to cause the cells to proliferate more rapidly.

It turns on other pro-survival figures and controls a pretty broad range of different programs that drive the cells to grow more quickly. So, when you’ve got both of those changes at the same time that’s sometimes referred to as a “double-hit lymphoma.” And large cell lymphomas with that double-hit kind of chromosome change have been shown in studies to have a significantly lower cure rate with our most commonly used standard treatment for this form of lymphoma, what we call R-CHOP.

So, being able to recognize those changes in cases of large B-cell lymphoma is important nowadays, both in terms of being able to share prognostic information with patients, to be able to tell them what we think the likelihood of not just getting into remission but eventually being cured will be. And also, for some situations, considering whether a treatment other than the standard R-CHOP regimen might be a better option.