TFRI’s prolific lymphoid cancer team began their research with a simple question: “Why do two-thirds of lymphoma patients recover, while the remainder does not?”
A decade later their work is being renewed as they continue their mission to find solutions to this problem so all patients diagnosed with lymphoid cancer have better outcomes.
“We have two major goals in this project: one is generating biomarkers and clinical tests, and the other is to generate novel therapeutics. The main theme is to treat patients more effectively.” says Dr. Christian Steidl, who is co-leading the project with Dr. Joseph Connors. Both are both based at the BC Cancer Agency Centre for Lymphoid Cancer in Vancouver, BC.
Around 7,680 Canadians are diagnosed with lymphoma each year, making it one of the top five most common cancers in the country. While 60 to 70 per cent of patients are cured with standard therapy, the remainder are not – and it is unclear why.
The renewed PPG will focus on innovation and technology, as well as expanding the research from diffused large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma to include both mantle cell and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The project’s four sub-projects plan to conquer some of the biggest challenges in lymphoid cancer research, such as manipulating the tumour microenvironment to make it less hospitable to cancer cells, and preventing patient relapse.
Lymphoid cancer cells are heterogeneous and constantly evolving, which makes them tough to target with current therapies, says Dr. Steidl. Cutting-edge technology from Vancouver’s Genome Sciences Centre – including mass spectrometry – will be employed to overcome these obstacles.
The team’s renewal comes on the heels of a successful track record of translation and genomics discovery. Previous achievements include the discovery of recurrent gene mutations and related drug trial design (e.g.tazemetostat) for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, major influences on treatment policies and education of health care professionals by implementation of a British Columbia-wide system to deliver lymphoma care, as well as biomarker development and implementation of routine-diagnostic tests for inclusion in ongoing clinical trials.
“We are quite proud about the novelty and innovation that we have produced,” says Dr. Steidl. “We’re very excited about the fact that we have the expertise and the technology in place to tackle the most pressing problems in lymphoma research and patient care.”