Conference Coverage

AUDIO: Immunotherapy’s role in NHL



– The use of immune checkpoint blockade is increasingly becoming standard therapy in Hodgkin lymphoma, but this approach has so far garnered mixed results in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Stephen Ansell, MD, PhD, said at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

In an interview, Dr. Ansell, professor of medicine and chair of the lymphoma group at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., said responses have been variable with promising results from immune checkpoint inhibitors in primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma, some NK/T-cell lymphomas, and primary CNS lymphoma. However, responses have been modest in low-grade lymphoma.

Dr. Ansell, who chaired a session at ASH 2017 on immunotherapy’s expanding role in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, said one of the major challenges of using immune checkpoint blockade in non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the complicated biology. For example, there are a lot of regulatory T cells that actually inhibit the immune response, and many of the T cells that are present within the tumor have an exhausted phenotype and are poorly functioning. Additionally, some of the cytokines that would seem to be stimulating the immune system can, over time, slowly produce T-cell exhaustion.

“Sort of like too much of a good thing ends up being a bad thing,” he said.

These are the issues that are fueling research today, Dr. Ansell said. Going forward he said he expects to see more combination approaches to therapy, such as using an agonistic positive signal plus the blocking of an inhibitory signal with chemotherapy.

Dr. Ansell reported that Mayo Clinic receives clinical trial support from Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Seattle Genetics, Trillium, and Affimed.

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