YOUR HEALTH: Breakthrough therapies target rare cancers, aid in battle against lymphomas

New medication and novel therapies are giving patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma the best chance at beating it.
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 8:36 AM CST
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DENVER, Colo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Eighty thousand people will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma – 20,000 will die from it. It usually strikes people in their sixties but can occur at any age. There are several types of it, and the rarer the form, the less likely you will survive it. This disease has been brought to the forefront after a popular actor was diagnosed this year, and it’s new medication and novel therapies that will give patients the best chance at beating it.

He’s battled prehistoric predators in Jurassic Park but is now in an even more courageous battle. Earlier this year, actor Sam Neill announced he had angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma, also known as AITL.

A new chemo drug put Neill in remission, but his diagnosis shed light on this rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“Sam Neil presented, kind of, right at the right median age of when most people are diagnosed with this; they commonly present with things like fever, chills, night sweats, some weight loss,” said Dr. Bradley Haverkos, an oncologist at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz campus.

Oncologists say there are promising new therapies in the pipeline for AITL. The first targets a biomarker in the Epstein-Barr virus that is also present in patients with AITL. They use a combination of drugs to kill the virus.

“We can get rid of the lymphoma cells ‘cause we think the virus, in part, drives the cancer. We’re also very interested to see if we can develop ways so that your own immune system can fight this cancer, as well,” Dr. Haverkos added.

There’s a lot riding on these new therapies. Dr. Haverkos says only 25 percent of people are alive five years after diagnosis. Once you relapse with this disease, it’s generally incurable.

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