Targeted therapy improves survival for younger lymphoma patients



The development of targeted therapy in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), which comprises 40 percent of all lymphomas, is challenging because several different genetic abnormalities can drive the disease. This variability in the genetic underpinnings of DLBCL make it unlikely that the same treatment will work for all patients. In 2019, a phase III clinical trial of a promising drug called ibrutinib, given in combination with chemotherapy, was conducted, but the results did not show significantly improved outcomes for all patients in the trial.


Based on their expertise as pioneers in identifying and classifying subtypes of DLBCL, IRP researchers Louis Staudt, M.D., Ph.D., and Wyndham Wilson, M.D., Ph.D., reanalyzed a subset of the data from the 2019 study to look at the effects of ibrutinib in patients with specific DLBCL subtypes. The analysis revealed that ibrutinib in combination with chemotherapy was highly effective in the subgroup of patients under the age of 60 with some genetic subtypes of DLBCL. Not only were all the patients in that subgroup still alive after three years, but none saw their cancer progress during that timespan. In comparison, 70 percent of patients in that subgroup who received chemotherapy alone were still alive after three years and the cancer worsened in half of them.


This work provides new evidence for the benefit of ibrutinib in patients with certain types of DLBCL, which could give younger patients a better chance of surviving this aggressive type of cancer. Additionally, this work highlights the importance of assessing the impact of targeted therapies in cancer subtypes, as the effectiveness of new treatments may differ between subtypes of cancer.


Wilson WH, Wright GW, Huang DW, Hodkinson B, Balasubramanian S, Fan Y, Vermeulen J, Shreeve M, Staudt LM. (2021). Effect of ibrutin ib with R-CHOP chemotherapy in genetic subtypes of DLBCL. Cancer Cell. 39(12):1643-1653. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2021.10.006.

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This page was last updated on Friday, September 15, 2023