Researchers based in British Columbia, along with German scientists, have developed a test that can predict the likelihood of developing hard-to-treat follicular lymphoma. The work was done at the University Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians, University Munich, and Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The research supporting this test appeared in the journal The Lancet Oncology.
The new test is known as m7-FLIPI and can determine which follicular lymphoma patients are least likely to respond to conventional cancer treatments. The diagnostic method is a modification of an already existing test, called FLIPI, the Follicular Lymphoma International Prognostic Index. In this novel test, scientists added information about seven genes that are known risk factors for follicular lymphoma. Dr. Oliver Weigert in Munich led the effort to develop the biological algorithm that took this information into account.
Follicular lymphoma is a form of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. About 20% of people diagnosed with follicular lymphoma respond poorly to treatment, or completely fail to respond at all. By determining which individuals are least likely to respond, researchers may be able to develop alternative treatments or enroll these patients in experimental clinical trials.
According to one of the researchers, Dr. Randy Gascoyne, distinguished scientist, BC Cancer Agency and scientific director of the Centre for Lymphoid Cancers, the team “set out to determine, at the time of diagnosis, which patients’ disease will have sustained responses after treatment and whether new genetic data could help inform which patients are at risk for developing progressive lymphoma so clinicians would be able to offer these high-risk patients more effective therapies.”
Dr. Gascoyne worked with PhD candidate and lymphoma fellow Robert Kridel, as well as other collaborators, to study why certain patients with follicular lymphoma fail to respond to treatment. “The work of Dr. Gascoyne, Dr. Kridel and other researchers has the ability to identify lifesaving solutions for patients living with follicular lymphoma,” said British Columbia Health Minister, Terry Lake. “Their findings are a great example of BC’s role as a leader in cancer treatment, prevention and the cutting edge research conducted through the BC Cancer Agency.”
The new test, m7-FLIPI, might be used in the future by physicians to test people who have been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, revealing if such patients have a difficult to treat form of the disease. Instead of getting conventional treatment, these patients may get more aggressive or more experimental therapies. Hopefully the use of m7-FLIPI will lead to more personalized and effective treatment of follicular lymphoma.