What’s the latest on emerging follicular lymphoma research? Dr. Jane Winter shares how follicular lymphoma treatment has advanced and provides an overview of treatment options.
Dr. Jane Winter is a hematologist and medical oncologist at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University. More information on Dr. Winter here.
Dr. Winter, is there emerging follicular lymphoma research that you are excited about?
So, first of all, I think it’s very important to underscore the fact that for a newly diagnosed patient with follicular lymphoma today, survival is measured in decades with an “S,” so, 10, 20-plus years. And that’s based on data that’s already becoming outdated such that it’s the likelihood with some of the newer treatment options is there’s never been a more exciting time, I often say, to be a hematologist because of all the exciting new tools we have to our trade.
So, lots of new treatments. But, even with the old treatments, and I mean rituximab-based treatments, the outcome is excellent. We have new treatments. We have all kinds of new treatments these days for follicular lymphoma such that it’s a veritable buffet of treatment options to choose from. Nonetheless, often times the first treatment is just either a monoclonal antibody, meaning rituximab, an anti-CD20, which is a protein or marker on the surface of the lymphoma cell. This is immunotherapy, been around now for 30 years and approved for 22 years for the treatment of follicular lymphoma as well as other B-cell lymphomas.
Other therapies that are typically used frontline include rituximab plus chemotherapy, most commonly a drug called bendamustine, which wasn’t always available, was something that was being developed in East Germany that came to the attention of the Europeans and North Americans only after German unification. And, this has become, along with Rituxan, one of the most commonly used first-line treatments for follicular lymphoma. Other options include a combination of Rituxan and an oral medication called lenalidomide (Revlimid), and this is given three weeks in a row out of every four weeks with Rituxan. Again, this anti-CD20 immunotherapy or antibody.
And, it’s a very effective but requires some monitoring of blood counts and so on, so it is perhaps not as commonly used as Rituxan and bendamustine as a first-line therapy. But, there are so many additional new options that are either approved or coming along for all of our B-cell lymphomas, and they include many new what we call “targeted agents” as well as immunotherapy including a very new therapy called CAR T-cell therapy. But, one thing I just wanted to say, in addition to the very long anticipated survival of newly diagnosed patients today, it’s really only a small fraction of patients who get into trouble with follicular lymphoma, at least in the short term.