ASH 2016: Hodgkin Lymphoma News

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Topics include: Treatment

Are there any new developments in Hodgkin lymphoma research?  On location at the 2016 American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting, expert Dr. John Burke of Rocky Mountain Cancer Center shares news from the conference, including promising—but still early—hints from combination treatment trials.

Produced in collaboration with US Oncology Research.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Mary Winidshar:

Welcome to the ASH 2016 meeting here in San Diego.  I'm Mary Windishar, and meet Dr. John Burke.  Glad you joined us.  Tell us your title and what you do.  

Dr. Burke:

I practice at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, and I'm the Associate Chair for the US Oncology/Hematology Research Program.  

Mary Windishar:

And you're here to tell us a little bit about the new discoveries with Hodgkin lymphoma.  What did you find out here at ASH? 

Dr. Burke:

Yeah.  I don't think there's anything immediately practice-changing, but we're seeing some early hints of some promising results from some combinations of drugs that are currently being used in Hodgkin lymphoma.  There are—to go into a little more detail for you, there is currently available a drug called brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris).  It's kind of a mouthful, but it's what's called an antibody-drug conjugate, and it targets Hodgkin lymphoma cells specifically.  That is currently used in Hodgkin lymphoma. 

And then another category of drug that's used is what are called PD-1 antibodies.  And PD-1 antibodies are immune-stimulating antibodies that work on a patient's immune system to try to get their T lymphocytes to be able to attack cancers better. 

And so both of these drugs are currently available in Hodgkin lymphoma, but independently, and a couple of results being reported are, at this meeting here today or tomorrow are early results of combining these two together, so giving brentuximab together with anti-PD-1 antibodies.  So, again, early results, but at least what's reported in the abstracts is that combining these is leading to very high response rates.  Even almost 100 percent of patients looked to be at least having some benefit in shrinkage of their Hodgkin lymphoma when you put these two types of drugs in combination. 

It's still being a little bit worked out, the side effects and the doses and things like that, so that's why it's not quite ready for everyday use in the clinic outside of these clinical trials.  I think we have probably another year or so to go before we see some of that, but at least some promising, exciting results in the early, early phases of the research. 

Mary Windishar:

Well, you took away my second question, which is always when, when.  

Dr. Burke:

Yeah. 

Mary Windishar:

But who decides how to combine these things?  Is it a national protocol, or is that up to the individual oncologist?

Dr. Burke:

Yeah.  I think oncologists can do what they want, but I would not advise that here.  I think the safety needs to be worked out a little further, the dosing needs to be worked out a little further on these national clinical trials where patients are monitored very closely and treated under sort of regulated conditions.  And so I think in general how to do these combinations and put these drugs together should be for now done in the context of these clinical trials until we figure out exactly what's the best way for patients.  

Mary Windishar:

And what if a patient wants to volunteer for a clinical trial, what would they say to their doctor to get involved?  

Dr. Burke:

Yeah.  It's a great question.  I think first of all is to ask.  You know, you ask your doctor, hey, do you have any clinical trials for me?  It is true that doctors are really busy, and they might have clinical trials available in their office that they forgot about, and so just reminding your doctor to think about clinical trials for an individual patient can certainly lead to patients being able to enroll in trials.  

Doctors can also help their patients if the doctor himself or herself doesn't have a clinical trial available they can maybe seek them out for patients.  So, you know, if a patient wants to go across town or even travel for—in order to get on a clinical trial, doctors can assist in that for finding those.  And a lot of this is online, ways of searching for clinical trials for patients, so doctors can help their patients that way too. 

Mary Windishar:

Sort of if you don't ask the answer is already no, huh?  

Dr. Burke:

Yeah.  If you don't ask sometimes it just—you know, it's easy for all of us to sort of forget, and so just reminding your doctor about the importance of those trials is a good thing to do.  

Mary Windishar:

Thank you so much, Dr. Burke.  And thank you for joining us here at ASH 2016.  I'm Mary Windishar. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on December 29, 2016