One of the most frustrating parts of Dr. Robert Kridel’s work is not being able to tell patients diagnosed with follicular lymphoma if they will respond well to treatment or not – a reality he hopes to change through research during his three-year, $450,000 TFRI New Investigator Award.
“We know that not every patient does the same during treatment: some do well with minimal therapy, some require much more intensive therapy, and some don’t respond and ultimately die from this disease,” says Dr. Kridel, a clinician-scientist based at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. “If we could determine up front which patients were higher risk we might be able to adapt our treatment, and hopefully improve outcomes for patients.”
Around 2,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with follicular lymphoma this year, and all these individuals will receive the same cancer treatment. Patient outcomes for this largely incurable disease remain variable: some remain cancer-free for a decade or more, while others experience rapid disease progression and poor outcome.
Dr. Kridel is working with a team of lymphoma researchers across Canada to accrue and genetically analyze 200 patient tumour samples to identify different subtypes of the disease. The group has already discovered that patients expressing a gene called FOXP1 have a strikingly different outcome post-treatment than patients without the gene.
“Having this preliminary data in hand makes me quite confident we’ll be successful in identifying differences between patients that are really meaningful, and guide patient management,” Dr. Kridel notes. “The most exciting aspect is that in a few years we might be able to change the way we treat patients by identifying molecular subtypes of follicular lymphoma that are different based on biology and outcome.”
Dr. Joseph Connors, clinical director of Vancouver’s Centre for Lymphoid Cancer at BC Cancer, is Dr. Kridel’s mentor for the duration of the award.
“[Dr. Kridel] is a diligent, thorough and meticulous researcher and has built well on his prior clinical and academic experience to prepare for a very productive career in academic medicine,” says Dr. Connors. “I am confident he will become a solid contributor within the community of lymphoid cancer researchers and am delighted his career is off to such a promising start.”
The opportunity to collaborate with leading lymphoid cancer researchers such as Dr. Connors is one of the most valuable aspects of the New Investigator Award, Dr. Kridel adds.
“We are always much stronger working together than against each other in science,” he says. “This is the kind of project no single group can do, and it’s typically the effort of teams working together across Canada. We hope our findings will have a meaningful impact on patient lives.”
Mentor: Dr. Joseph Connors