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Lymphoma and Pets
Breakthrough in lymphoma treatment
For some wonderful news to start your morning, A British Columbia study on Hodgkin's disease has been hailed as a significant finding. Why? It has found a way to predict which patients can be cured with standard treatment and which patients are more likely to relapse.
The response among the usually stoic medical community is the equivalent of a standing ovation. The staid New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) described the discovery as "the breakthrough we have been looking for," and researchers say it may have implications for other types of cancer.
The research offers, for the first time, the ability to predict the approximately 25 per cent of patients who will relapse or die if they aren't treated more effectively from the time of diagnosis. Dr. Joseph Connors, study co-author and lymphoma expert, said that although 75-80 per cent of patients are cured initially, the rest relapse.
Why? A high number of white cells called CD68-positive macrophages in their tumors.
The molecular marker testing method involves counting the macrophages within an enlarged lymph node that has been removed. What’s even better news is that counting them can easily incorporated into a routine diagnostic approach.
In the retrospective study, the 10-year survival rate in patients with the highest number of such cells was 59.6 per cent compared to 88.6 per cent in patients with a lower number. The study also examined tissue samples from nearly 300 patients aged 33 to 46.
Lead author Dr. Christian Steidl said in addition to finding a correlation between the number of macrophages and the outcome of primary treatment, researchers also discovered the number of macrophages could be used to predict success or failure of secondary treatment, like bone marrow transplants, after relapses. That suggests experimental or more intense treatments should be employed sooner, rather than later in such patients, since standard treatments are likely to fail.