New score to help navigate improved treatment for follicular lymphoma patients | Leukaemia Foundation

New score to help navigate improved treatment for follicular lymphoma patients

Friday 12 July 2019

More Australians living with follicular lymphoma could benefit from tailored treatment through development of a new clinical scoring model thanks to funding from the Leukaemia Foundation.

The Leukaemia Foundation will support Brisbane-based researcher Professor Maher Gandhi to design a new genetic, immune and clinical prognostic score to assess the best treatment pathway for follicular lymphoma patients.

Professor Gandhi is the CEO and Director of Clinical Research and head of the Blood Cancer Research Group at Mater Research, as well as Director of Mater Research Institute University of Queensland, and a haematologist at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Once established, the score will enable clinicians to determine whether their patient is better suited to receive conventional or novel targeted therapies based on a risk classification, boosting chances of tackling the disease and improving patient outcomes.

The score will also support clinicians to assist patients in making informed decisions regarding their treatment type, and in doing so improve equity of access to new treatment approaches and rationalise their use.

Once developed, the score will be named the Leukaemia Foundation Follicular Lymphoma Prognostic Score in recognition of the Leukaemia Foundation’s contribution.
Follicular lymphoma is the most common indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and a major health burden to blood cancer care in Australia. While early stage follicular lymphoma is potentially curable, the disease has very poor outcomes once it reaches an advanced stage.

There has been a steady and unexplained 40% increase in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma over the past 25 years, with follicular lymphoma representing 23-30% of all NHL diagnosed. Despite the rate of some other NHL plateauing over the past five years, rates of follicular lymphoma have continued to rise.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said the Leukaemia Foundation was proud to support Professor Gandhi’s work.

“We want Australians with blood cancer to enjoy a better quality of life, which is why we have invested $47 million over the past 20 years into innovative research like Professor Gandhi’s to improve the way they are treated,” he said.

“For more than 20 years the Leukaemia Foundation has been funding researchers at leading medical research institutes across the country to undertake projects with the potential to deliver high impact results and better patient outcomes.

“We want to support our health system to ensure people have access to the best possible treatment to treat their disease. Diagnostics are the pathway to precision medicine, which has the ability to deliver advances in disease management through targeted treatment, and that is what we anticipate this new score could achieve once developed.”

The score will be designed based on assessment of diagnostic samples drawn from 1500 ‘real-world’ follicular lymphoma patient cases across Australia.

A study of this magnitude will make a major contribution to the field and permit the score to be adopted worldwide, strengthening the potential for this research to have an impact not only in Australia but also internationally.

“Without the Leukaemia Foundation’s support, work like this to improve lymphoma outcomes could not be done,” Professor Gandhi said.

Development of the scoring model will expand on Professor Gandhi’s ongoing diagnostic lymphoma project to determine the genetic differences between early and advanced stage follicular lymphoma as well as the differences in the make-up of the immune response at the different stages.

Two stages of the research project have been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, with the Leukaemia Foundation providing $200,000 in funding to support the third.

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