The discovery by Professor Maher Gandhi and Kimberley Jones from QIMR’s Clinical Immunohaematology Laboratory could mean personalised treatment for patients with the blood cancer.
“This has the potential to be a huge aid for doctors in their decision making and a faster and less invasive process for the patients,” Professor Gandhi said.
“Up until now, clinicians have relied on scans to help them judge how well people are responding to chemotherapy. The imaging is expensive, it can be difficult to interpret, and can be limited to just one scan before treatment starts, and another when treatment is finished.
“This discovery means we can work towards using simple blood tests to provide quicker, cheaper, and more regular monitoring of how a person is responding to treatment. “
About 400 Australians are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma each year. It is most common in adolescents and young adults, and more likely to occur in men than women.
The QIMR team found that levels of a certain protein – CD163 – are elevated in Hodgkin lymphoma patients’ serum and drop as the tumour shrinks during chemotherapy.
“Chemotherapy drugs are toxic, and the more you use, the higher the chances of side-effects down the track,” Ms Jones said.
“Testing for these protein levels, using a simple blood test, could show doctors whether the treatment is working, whether they can reduce the doses, or, conversely, whether they need to increase the doses to beat the cancer.”
“In short, it means a way forward to personalised treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma patients, and hopefully smaller doses of chemotherapy drugs.”
The scientists have spent the past six years following 47 Hodgkin Lymphoma patients from diagnosis to recovery. The next step is a larger international study of patients in collaboration with the Australasian Leukaemia Lymphoma Group and doctors in the UK.
This research is funded by the Cancer Council Queensland, the Queensland Government’s Office of Health and Medical Research, and the Leukaemia Foundation Queensland.
The paper, published in Clinical Cancer Research, is available online at http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/19/3/731.long
HODGKIN LYMPHOMA FACTS: The most common symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is a firm, usually painless swelling of a lymph node (swollen glands), usually in the neck, under the arms or in the groin. Other symptoms may include: recurrent fevers, excessive sweating at night, unintentional weight loss, persistent fatigue and lack of energy, and generalised itching or a rash. It is diagnosed by a lymph node biopsy/examination.
The Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) is a world leading translational research institute. Our research focuses on cancer, infectious diseases, mental health and a range of complex diseases. Working in close collaboration with clinicians and other research institutes, our aim is to improve health by developing new diagnostics, better treatments and prevention strategies.
QIMR gratefully acknowledges the support of the Queensland Government.
This research was conducted in QIMR’s Clive Berghofer Cancer Research Centre, a state of the art research facility named in honour of leading Queensland philanthropist, Mr Clive Berghofer AM, in recognition of his contribution to the Institute’s Cancer Research Program
For more information about QIMR, visit www.qimr.edu.au