Development of a novel prognostic model in Follicular Lymphoma

Lymphoid cancers are the fourth most common cancers in Canada. The incidence of follicular lymphoma (FL), a common and incurable subtype of lymphoma, continues to rise and represent an important health care problem. The prognosis for patients with FL can vary widely, from cases that spontaneously go into remission, to aggressive forms of FL where life expectancy is measured in months. Transformation of FL to a more aggressive transformed lymphoma (TLy) occurs in one third of the patients over 10 years and is an important cause of patient morbidity and mortality. With an enhanced ability to distinguish among different FL types and their prognoses, clinicians could safely delay treatment or give minimally toxic therapy to low risk patients, and reserve more aggressive chemotherapy to high risk patients. Dr. Nathalie Johnson is a hematologist working to improve clinical tools for identifying high risk FL patients. She is focusing on novel biomarkers that are associated with disease severity, identifying the most significant genetic factors in the tumour and in the patient that predict overall survival (OS) and transformation to Tly in FL. So far, she and her colleagues have found 85 genes that are highly predictive of survival and 55 genes that are predictive of transformation. Johnson will use this knowledge to develop and test a diagnostic model that can be translated into clinical tests for use by hospital laboratories. Her project seeks to move novel biomarkers into the forefront of outcome prediction, which will lead to individualized patient care and should identify novel targets for future therapies.