Lymphomas are tumors that affect the lymphatic system and in particular lymphocytes, the cells used to defend against infections. The speakers were Professor Armando Santoro, Director of Humanitas Cancer Center and Professor Carmelo Carlo-Stella, Head of Hematology in Humanitas, in a service at Tg2 Medicina33.

“Lymphatic tissue is ubiquitous in our body so it is difficult to identify a precise site, whatever site may be affected by the disease. The feedback of enlarged glands is the cause that most frequently pushes the patient to consult the doctor,” explains Prof. Santoro.

Lymphomas are divided into two categories, Hodgkin’s lymphomas and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas: “There are about 70-80 different variants of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, each of which requires specific treatment,” continues Prof. Santoro.

Lymphomas are treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy and in most cases heal, but there are also so-called refractory lymphomas, which do not respond to the therapies: “In these patients we have other therapeutic possibilities, such as marrow transplantation of both the same patients and a donor, which allows you to heal another large proportion of patients. There are great hopes in research, which will be mainly focused on immunotherapy, a research process that is already underway,” concluded Prof. Santoro.


Research areas

“One aspect is to identify drug combinations (e.g. small molecule immunotherapy, kinase inhibitor immunotherapy) that further enhance the effectiveness of immunotherapy,” Professor Carlo-Stella stressed.

“There are various experimental models that allow to study different types of lymphoma and to study them in laboratory with experiments, which typically combine drugs, cancer cells and cells of the immune system to try to understand what is the best combination. An example of this is the co-culture in which T and B lymphocytes are put together, which should have antitumor activity and which are co-cultivated with refractory lymphoma cells. The effect of interaction between T, B and tumor cells is studied in the absence of drugs or in the presence of drugs. Changing the behavior of lymphocytes, through drugs, and always through other drugs, possibly also change the behavior of the tumor cell: these changes tend to transform a refractory lymphoma into a lymphoma that is again sensitive to drugs,” explained Professor Carlo-Stella.

“Today translational research in the field of lymphomas is a research that combines the concept of refractoriness with immunotherapy and the development of non-immunotherapy drugs that can eventually set themselves the goal of eradicating chemo-refractoriness,” concluded Professor Carlo-Stella.


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