John Byrd, M.D., of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, is one of the world’s renowned scientists in the field of blood cancer. LLS has been supporting his work for the better part of two decades. While Byrd has, of late, turned his attention to the problem of finding better therapies for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), it is in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) that he has made his mark.
Byrd defined the mechanism of action in rituximab, the antibody that targets the CD20 protein expressed on the surface of B-cells. Rituximab was the first therapy to extend lives of patients with CLL. Further, Byrd led the Phase 3 clinical trial that led to the FDA approval in 2014 of ibrutinib, a therapy that targets the BTK protein found on the surface of B-cells. Ibrutinib has changed the standard of care for patients with CLL. Byrd currently leads an LLS Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant, a major collaborative effort bringing together an interdisciplinary team of investigators to undertake groundbreaking research.
Today at the American Society of Hematology (#ASH15) Annual Meeting we turn our attention to lymphoma, and in particular emerging immunotherapy approaches to treat this blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system, a key player in the body’s immune system. Exciting progress is being made on this front.
Several LLS-funded researchers were among a group at a session entitled “Novel Immunotherapy Strategies in Lymphoma.”
One presenter, Craig Moskowitz, M.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, shared findings from a Phase 1 study of a therapy called denintuzumab mafodotin (SGN-CD19A).
This investigational drug is what is known as a monoclonal antibody drug conjugate - an antibody (a protein used by the immune system to neutralize pathogens) combined with a cytotoxic agent that kills cancer cells. The antibody helps deliver the toxin directly to the cancer cells with minimal impact to surrounding cells.
Moskowitz said therapy was well tolerated by patients in a Phase 1 trial, and showed durable responses. A Phase 2 study is now beginning.
Beat AML is a collaboration launched nearly three years ago by LLS and the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), to go on the offenensive against acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a blood cancer with a poor prognosis and little change in the standard of care in 40 years. More than a dozen abstracts from the first phase of the initiative will be featured throughout the American Society of Hematology (#ASH15) Annual Meeting in Orlando over the next few days.
#ASH15 is an opportunity for researchers from around the world to present their latest data from clinical trials testing new therapies, or combinations of existing therapies, to improve outcomes for patients with blood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and other blood-related disorders. Precision medicine and immunotherapy are two of the themes running through many of the presentations at #ASH15.