Prognostic markers for primary cutaneous lymphomas would considerably help patients by aiding clinicians’ understanding as to how their disease is progressing, which means better tailored therapies. A team at the Medical University of Vienna is conducting several studies in an effort to unravel such markers.
Primary cutaneous lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system that occur in the skin. They are rare cancers whose causes are usually unknown, being classified by the type of lymphocyte involved, which may be either B-cell or T-cells.
“In the early stage of the disease, the prognosis is excellent and normal life expectancy is hardly affected,” Constanze Jonak of MedUni Vienna’s Department of Dermatology, said in a press release. “But when the disease is advanced, the 5-year survival rate drops to 0 to 39 percent, and the disease is terminal.”
Cutaneous lymphomas are a subset of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas that are always associated with skin rashes and severe itching, which often mimics eczema or chronic dermatitis. In advanced stages, they may result in skin tumors, ulcerations, and exfoliation that are complicated by itching and infections. Treatments available for these patients are limited, and when available, the disease progresses after short periods of time.
In a previous study, the researchers discovered some prognostic values. Now they are participating in the largest international study ever conducted to establish a prognostic index for patients with cutaneous lymphomas.
The team is also focusing on other particularities of the disease. In one project, they are surveying cutaneous lymphoma patients not only to assess their quality of life, but, for the first time, to also understand patients’ perception of their disease, how they experience the disease, and how they cope with it.
In another, they investigated the benefits of Rituxan (rituximab), an antibody that targets the CD20 molecule at the surface of B-cells, inducing their destruction. The results were very encouraging, with Rituxan providing the longest after-care periods for patients with cutaneous B-cell lymphomas ever observer.
“The treatment was very successful in the majority of patients. Recurrences were quite common but patients responded to the therapy once more,” Jonak said.