You may have heard of the unfortunate passing of Paul Allen, a brilliant innovator in technology and science, from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As we remember his life, we also bring new hope for others with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the near future. One of our experts, Steven Goldstein, MD, medical director of the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute speaks about the disease and our own innovations in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment on the horizon.
Understanding Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL)
In 2018, about 74,680 adults and children combined will receive the diagnosis of NHL.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system. It’s a name that covers many different types of lymphoma that share similar characteristics. The condition most often affects adults and is more rare in children. Lymphoma can affect anywhere in the body where there is lymph tissue, which includes lymph nodes, the spleen, bone marrow, thymus, adenoids and tonsils and the digestive tract.
“Symptoms if lymphoma often include an enlarged lymph node in any part of the body and unexplained fever, night sweats and/or weight loss,” advises Dr. Goldstein.
Types of Lymphoma
“There are several different types of lymphoma,” says Dr. Goldstein. These types are determined based on whether a B- or T-cell is affected, among other factors. “Lymphomas can also be indolent or aggressive, which affects how quickly they grow and spread to other parts in the body,” explains Dr. Goldstein. “Indolent lymphomas grow and spread slowly and some don’t need any treatment right away,” Dr. Goldstein says. However, aggressive lymphomas tend to grow and spread quickly and do need immediate treatment.
Innovations in Treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
“Treatment for Non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma is customized for each patient based on the type of lymphoma and other factors,” says Dr. Goldstein. “One area of treatment that is very exciting for us and holds great promise for patients with certain types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is immunotherapy,” shares Dr. Goldstein. With immunotherapy, the patient’s own immune system is utilized to detect and target cancer cells, which the immune system had previously ignored. Specifically, it’s called CAR T-Cell Therapy, or Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Therapy. The Florida Hospital Cancer Institute is in the final stages of being able to bring this therapy to its patients in the very near future.
With CAR T-Cell Therapy, immune cells are removed from the patient and sent to the pharmaceutical company to be engineered to target the specific marker on the patient’s tumor cells. Then, they are reinfused back into the patient through a transfusion of the patient’s own cells. Dr. Goldstein has extensive experience in CAR T-Cell Therapy, coming to The Florida Hospital Cancer Institute from the University of Michigan, where he was the principal investigator of a national trial using CAR T-Cell Therapy to treat refractory non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which resulted in very positive results — extending the quality and quantity of life — for some patients.
“I was attracted to Florida Hospital by the vision of leadership to make our community hospital a top tier institution in country on the cutting-edge of treatment and with access to clinical trials, such as CAR T-Cell Therapy,” says Dr. Goldstein. “CAR T-Cell Therapy can provide hope for some patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that haven’t responded to traditional treatments,” he adds. “It’s a real game changer in cancer treatment and it has become a major area of focus for us. We have medical pioneers of this treatment on our team, including Dr. David Shook who has studied this treatment among pediatric populations."
He concludes, “We will be one of the first medical institutions (after universities) to offer this treatment to patients within months and it speaks to the level of experience on the medical team. This treatment requires a high level of complexity of treatment and taking care of patients, which we are prepared to provide,” says Dr. Goldstein.
Learn more about the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute and Dr. Goldstein.