University of Queensland researchers have recently discovered an immunological biomarker in patients with a specific type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that can be used for early assessment of a patient’s response to standard treatment for the disease. The work entitled, “Ratios of T-cell immune effectors and checkpoint molecules as prognostic biomarkers in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: a population-based study“, was published in the latest edition of The Lancet Haematology.
The study was conducted in the laboratory of award winning scientist Dr. Maher Gandhi, MD, PhD, Professor, Department of Hematology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Leukemia Foundation Queensland Chair in Blood Cancer Research. Dr. Gandhi’s research is focused on understanding the basis of lymphoma in an effort to devise new treatments which are less toxic and more effective, to establish new biomarkers which will help determine the most effective treatment strategies, to monitor the patterns of response and relapse in patients and to understand the development of lymphomas.
In this study Dr. Gandhi and his team used tissue specimens obtained from patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, to assess certain gene interactions in the presence of the chemotherapeutic agent rituximab. The researchers were looking for an outcome predictor that could be used as a biomarker (as a measure to perform a clinical assessment) for an early detection of treatment resistant non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The findings showed a specific immunological “check-point,” that after validation in confirmatory tests, was a predictable measure of treatment response. This check-point will be used as a novel test to predict how patients will respond to standard treatment.
In a University press release Dr. Gandhi stated, “This type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be fast growing and aggressive, so early diagnosis is vital, as is swift treatment. Fortunately, the majority of cases respond very well to the current first line treatment, which is a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. However, some patients do not respond, and for these people the prognosis is poor. The test will allow clinicians like myself to determine which patients are unlikely to respond well to standard treatment, thus avoiding ineffective and unnecessary chemotherapy and prompting consideration of other treatment options.”
For Leukaemia Foundation Queensland’s CEO, Bill Petch, the importance of this discovery is immeasurable, “This isn’t just another test. It’s a game-changer. Professor Gandhi’s discovery will mean patients get access to the best treatment for them, first time, every time. It will significantly reduce relapse rates and have a significant impact on how drugs are funded and delivered into the healthcare system. The implications for this country’s health economics are enormous but, most importantly, patients will get access to the best treatments more quickly. If this test can then translate to other medicines and blood cancers, it could open the door to new drugs from overseas by shedding more light on their potential here in Australia.”