Monash Part of World-First Clinical Trial for Lymphoma Patients

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Mr George Potter receiving the new treatment. Photo: Monash University

A novel therapy for aggressive lymphoma is being tested in a world-first clinical trial at the Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP).

In early 2015, researchers at Monash University and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre showed the novel anti-lymphoma therapy is remarkably effective against one of the most aggressive B-cell lymphomas in animal models.

Mr George Potter is the first aggressive B-cell lymphoma patient in Australia—and only second in the world—to receive the new treatment, a drug called dinaciclib, a type of epigenetic therapy that can alter the way a cancer cell reads its own abnormal DNA.

“Certain B-cell lymphomas depend on a cancer causing gene called ‘Myc’,” said lead researcher and Monash Health haematologist Dr Gareth Gregory.

“Patients with aggressive lymphoma usually respond well to initial chemotherapy. Unfortunately, those that relapse or are resistant to upfront therapy have a poor response to further therapies and ultimately have a poor prognosis.”

“In the case of aggressive lymphoma, dinaciclib effectively turns off genes that Myc is activating and then kills the cells, including those resistant to conventional chemotherapy,” said Dr Gregory.

Dr Gregory and Associate Professor Jake Shortt, Head of Haematology Research at the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS) have worked on this type of lymphoma for more than seven years and have tested numerous novel and conventional therapies.

“In animal models, dinaciclib is the most effective treatment we have seen to date by a long way,” said Associate Professor Shortt.

“We’ve even seen results in animal models that have led to some cures—this is something we have never seen before.”

Mr Potter is receiving his treatment at the newly opened Clinical Trials Centre at MHTP.

“I am thrilled and very grateful to be part of this trial”, said Mr Potter.

Dr Gregory said initial results from the clinical trial will be available after two to three months of treatment, but overall assessment will take approximately two years.

“We are quite hopeful this therapy will prolong life and provide durable remissions,” added Dr Gregory.

Lymphomas are the most common form of haematological or blood cancer in Australia, and the sixth most common form of cancer overall.  The incidence of lymphomas has more than doubled over the past 20 years and is continuing to rise, for no known reason.

This material was produced by Monash University.