Reducing lymphoma relapse by 34%

Progress Report Spring 2018 - Lymphoma

Lymphoma patients in Alberta played a crucial role in improving treatment around the world, answering questions that change the way we treat this disease and getting access to new therapies first, thanks to a groundbreaking clinical trial.

“We were able to offer patients here in Alberta a treatment that wasn't yet standard of care and were able to learn new things about which treatment was the better one for this particular type of lymphoma,” says Dr. Randeep Sangha, an investigator on the GALLIUM trial and oncologist at the Cross Cancer Institute.

Thanks to the support from donors like you, Alberta is considered a leader in clinical trials, which means about 15 per cent of cancer patients will take part in a trial, compared to the national average of eight per cent. One of those trials, led by Dr. Sangha in northern Alberta, compared two antibodies when combined with chemotherapy for patients with follicular lymphoma.

This type of blood cancer is slow growing and patients often live with it for years. The current treatment using the combination of chemotherapy with the antibody rituximab sees a progression-free survival-time from treatment to relapse-of six to eight years. In the GALLIUM trial, researchers compared a different antibody, obinutuzumab, with rituximab, to evaluate progression-free survival among patients with follicular lymphoma.

Researchers around the world accrued just over 1200 patients to the trial-100 patients came from the Cross Cancer Institute and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre-which allowed the centres to offer state-of-the-art therapy before its available to the general public. The Cross Cancer Institute had the highest accrual among all the global centres, including powerhouse clinical trial sites such as Germany.

After a follow-up of about 35 months, the data showed that obinutuzumab was superior to the standard-of-care treatment, rituximab. The new treatment showed significantly longer progression-free survival at three years (80 per cent vs 73 per cent). It also showed a 34 per cent lower risk of progression, relapse or death. The research has been published in the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine.

"For us to show that this new combination of treatment prolongs progression-free survival bodes well for patients. We want to see if this difference improves even more with longer follow-up."

- Dr. Randeep Sangha

The new treatment has been approved by the FDA in the United States and is awaiting regulatory approval in Canada. "That's the challenging part-when you have a successful drug from a published clinical trial and you know it works but you have to wait for it to clear the regulatory hurdles," says Dr. Sangha. "But it's satisfying to know that Alberta is a leader in many key clinical trials that are leading to advances in cancer care."

Thank you for pushing the pace of progress that leads to groundbreaking research and leading-edge treatments. Together, we can make like better for Albertans facing cancer.

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Spring 2018

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