In an effort to help patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) and their caregivers better understand this form of blood cancer, Massive Bio presented a Facebook Live event titled “Mantle Cell Lymphoma: Oncology Hour” on August 16. In the event, oncologist and hematologist Liat Dagan, MD, PhD, gave an overview of MCL that focused on three major areas: What’s known about the cause of MCL, how is this cancer treated, and what are researchers learning about how to control it? The presentation was hosted by Massive Bio’s director of patient engagement, MaLinda Ross.
Dr. Dagan, who treats patients with blood cancer at Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s Lynn Cancer Institute, in Boca Raton, Florida, began by explaining that MCL is a relatively rare cancer, accounting for about 6 to 7 percent of all cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), which includes several other forms of blood cancer. MCL can strike anyone, but the typical patient is a white male with a median age of 68. Some patients have no symptoms when diagnosed, but others experience fever, night sweats, and significant weight loss. Nausea and vomiting are common, too—as Dr. Dagan explained, one feature of MCL that sets it apart from other NHLs is that it often affects the gastrointestinal tract.
Doctors diagnose MCL by performing a variety of tests, including a physical exam, blood tests, and imaging tests. Lymph nodes are often removed to examine for the presence of cancer. Some patients require a bone marrow biopsy, in which a needle is used to extract a sample from the soft tissue inside bone, where blood cells are created.
While the cause of MCL is unknown, the disease is associated with mutations (or DNA alterations) in immune cells called B cells. Certain gene mutations can make MCL more aggressive and difficult to treat, while others produce a more indolent, or slow-growing, form. Patients with the latter form are often candidates for “watching and waiting,” a strategy in which patients don’t receive immediate treatment, and instead are monitored closely by their physicians, said Dr. Dagan, noting that some can go years without needing therapy. However, she added, “most patients with MCL are diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease…. Most are symptomatic. They have a high tumor burden and we need to decide about treatment”
The treatment a doctor recommends for MCL will depend on a variety of factors, such as the patient’s age and overall health, the cancer’s stage, whether they have certain genetic mutations and their personal preferences. “There are many, many options,” says Dr. Dagan. Younger and healthier patients may be candidates for bone marrow transplants, in which normal stem cells from a well-matched donor are infused into the patient to replace diseased stem cells that can’t produce adequate levels of blood cells. However, most MCL patients require medical therapy. For many years, that chemotherapy was the main option, but the addition of new classes of drugs has changed the approach to treating MCL. That includes targeted therapies, which shrink tumors by attacking proteins and other factors that cancer cells need to survive; and immunotherapies, which boost the body’s natural defenses against cancer.
Yet, MCL is a challenging opponent. “Most patients will eventually experience relapse,” said Dr. Dagan. “That’s why participating in clinical trials is encouraged.” Dr. Dagan concluded her discussion by describing several promising recent clinical trials that could soon add to the list of treatments available for managing MCL.
Massive Bio specializes in matching patients with MCL to clinical trials, which are scientific studies in which researchers evaluate the benefits and safety of cutting-edge treatments. If you or a loved one has any form of cancer and you’re interested in learning more about clinical trials, contact us at (844) 627 7246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.