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How Effective is Immunotherapy for Hodgkin Lymphoma?

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Published on September 30, 2020

Is Immunotherapy Changing Outcomes for Hodgkin Lymphoma Patients?

Immunotherapy has been a huge success for Hodgkin lymphoma patients! With the expectation that many patients will enjoy long lives, researchers are focusing on the side effects of treatment, how to minimize the long term impact of Hodgkin Lymphoma drugs and offer patients a high quality of life.

Dr. Stephen Ansell, Mayo Clinic, joins Patient Power Co-Founder, Andrew Schorr, to explain how immunotherapies work when immunotherapy can be used on its own or when it should be used in combination with chemotherapy. Watch the video to learn more.

 

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Transcript | How Effective is Immunotherapy for Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Andrew Schorr:
Hello, welcome to Patient Power. I'm Andrew Schorr. We're joined by a leading researcher and clinician from Mayo Clinic, Dr. Stephen Ansell, who is Chair of the Lymphoma Program there. Dr. Ansell, I want to talk to you about Hodgkin lymphoma. You've done research related to immunotherapy in Hodgkin's. So where does that come in? What does it mean for patients?

Immunotherapy is Improving Outcomes for Hodgkin Lymphoma Patients

Dr. Ansell:
Immunotherapy and immunological approaches in Hodgkin lymphoma have been one of the huge success stories in the last five years. Hodgkin lymphoma is a very unique disease. If you actually take a biopsy from a patient who has a newly diagnosed Hodgkin lymphoma and look under the microscope, the small minority of the cells you can see are actually cancer cells.

What are Reed-Sternberg Cells?

And the vast majority of cells that are present are actually immune cells from the patient's immune system that have been recruited, or that have gone there, to interact with what are called Reed-Sternberg cells, the cancer cell in Hodgkin lymphoma. And over recent years ourselves, but other groups, have really participated in understanding exactly what is going on. And the tumor cell has created a defense for itself to protect itself from the immune system. In ways in which you can disrupt that protection and liberate the immune cells so that they can target the patient's tumor cells, that actually has been a huge success in Hodgkin lymphoma.

So one of the treatments that has now become a standard of care is the use of a PD1 blocking antibody, that's resulted in very high response rates. And that approach, PD1 blockade, is being used in combination with other approaches to really improve the outcome of Hodgkin lymphoma patients overall. So, that particular immunotherapy has proven highly successful in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma.

Long-Term Quality of Life

Andrew Schorr:
Okay, well, as you know, not everybody, but many people who are diagnosed with Hodgkin's are younger, and so they want to go on and have a full longer life. So, do you feel that with immunotherapy, these other combinations you were talking about, that people can? That people can go on to a longer life in most cases?

Dr. Ansell:
Absolutely true in Hodgkin lymphoma. I think in general, our hope and expectation is that the majority of patients will benefit from treatment, but not just benefit, actually durably benefit, meaning the disease goes away and stays away. And actually, a lot of the focus in recent years has been to focus very much on how to minimize side effects of treatment so that in the long-term patients don't have significant problems with complications of previous therapy.

So there have been ways to bring less of therapies, more effective therapies into the combination. There've been ways to measure the benefit of treatment so that when you know a patient has had complete benefit, you don't over-treat, you can actually dial back on therapy and only escalate therapy when you don't feel you're doing as well as you need to. So the object is to have maximum benefit for fewer side effects so that you get minimum long-term durable complications or side effects. And that actually has been one of the real success stories in Hodgkin lymphoma, particularly.

Andrew Schorr:
And using immunotherapy can help you do that ever better?

Immunotherapy and Chemotherapy

Dr. Ansell:
Correct. So again, I want to be very clear that traditional chemotherapy is still a very successful approach, and immunotherapies are being used along with that. It's not always being used instead of that. Really the only place where it's being used instead of is kind of at the end when the disease has relapsed multiple times. But right in the beginning, when it's the first therapy, there is still a significant component of chemotherapy that is needed along with immunotherapy that's now being tested.

Andrew Schorr:
So in this case, it's making chemo treatment better?

Dr. Ansell:
Correct.

Andrew Schorr:
Okay. Dr. Stephen Ansell, thank you so much for explaining this to us in all your work that you do in lymphomas. We really appreciate you being with us.

Dr. Ansell:
Thanks for having me.

Andrew Schorr:
I'm Andrew Schorr. Remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all.


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