APR 06, 2021 8:00 AM PDT

Lymphoma Patient Cured by "Reeducating" their Immune System

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Australian researchers have used a breakthrough therapy to cure a patient diagnosed with a rare brain lymphoma, a form of blood cancer localized in the brain. The 46-year-old recipient of an organ transplant showed signs of the condition after developing glandular fever in an immunocompromised state.

The therapy, developed by Prof. Maher Gandhi from the Mater Research Institute, was designed as an alternative to traditional chemotherapy, a therapeutic option that was off the cards due to the patient’s already weakened immune system.

“My therapy had a dual approach, targeting the cancer and the glandular fever,” explained Gandhi. “First, I used a new type of drug, called a small molecule inhibitor, each day over ten weeks to try and slowly kill the cancer and reeducate the immune system how to function. Because the drug works differently to chemotherapy, the patient was able to take it even though he was on dialysis.”

The second course of treatment involved using a vaccine to stimulate the patient’s immune system to eradicate both the glandular fever virus and residual cancer cells.

“Fortunately, it worked brilliantly in the patient, and he has been completely cured, and the transformation is remarkable,” remarked Gandhi.

Prof. Gandhi is among cancer researchers interested in finally solving the puzzle of how to treat lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, in immuno-compromised patients. According to Gandhi, this largely neglected area of research has seen a resurgence in interest over the last decade. Now, scientists are exploring the potential of combining our deeper knowledge of genetics and immune system dynamics to take a precision-based medicine approach to treat this subset of patients.

“While this breakthrough is a promising step in the right direction, it is important to understand this treatment is still far from being available to the general public as all therapies must follow due process of testing and approvals,” said Gandhi.

After the 10-week treatment regime, the patient reported seeing a complete turnaround. “My seizures stopped, and I could see a drastic improvement, when he told me I was completely cured, I was ecstatic. I am hoping I can have another transplant soon and improve my quality of life,” commented the patient.

 

Sources: Mater Research, Blood.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
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