2020 Special Pledge

Lymphoma Cancer Research Project at Fox Chase Cancer Center

What is lymphoma?

In the United States in 2020 the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 1.8 million new cancer cases and over 600,000 total cancer deaths. Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in the United States, accounting for over 4% of all cancers. 

Lymphoma is a cancer that affects lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in the body’s germ fighting network. This network is housed in lymphoid organs, including lymph nodes (lymph glands), spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. Lymphoma can arise in any of these sites, as well as other organs throughout the body. Many types of lymphoma exist, and they are divided into two types: Hodgkin's lymphoma (formerly called Hodgkin's disease) and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The primary difference between these two types of lymphoma is the particular type of lymphocyte affected; however, there are other differences as well:

  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more common and more lethal, with approximately 77,000 new cases per year with a mortality rate of approximately 25%. Hodgkin’s disease afflicts about 8,500 patients per year and has a mortality rate of about 11%.

  • Lymphomas tend to arise in patients of different ages, with the risk for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma steadily increasing throughout life and occurring primarily in patients 65 or older. The aging of the American population will likely lead to an increase in Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases during the coming years. Conversely, Hodgkin’s lymphoma has a bimodal distribution, being most common in early adulthood (early 20's) but then again increasing in prevalence in late adulthood, after age 55.

  • Non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphomas also predominate in different sites in the body, with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurring in lymph nodes anywhere in the body, while Hodgkin’s lymphoma tends to begin in the upper body, such as the neck, chest or armpits. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is often diagnosed at an early stage and is therefore considered one of the most treatable cancers. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is typically not diagnosed until it has reached a more advanced stage.

 

The Lymphoma Research Project at Fox Chase Cancer Center

The effectiveness of treatments for lymphoma has been markedly improved over the years, increasing five-year survival from approximately 40% to nearly 80%. However, for those patients that fail first line treatment, few options exist.  Dr. Yibin Yang’s lab at Fox Chase seeks to provide hope for those patients who are not cured by existing treatments.  In determining why those patients fail to benefit from existing treatments, Dr. Yang employs a state-of-the art method to destroy the genes that are activated in these patients in order to determine which genes are required to keep the lymphoma cells alive.  Those genes found to be required for lymphoma cell survival serve as important targets against which new therapies can be developed. Yang’s lab has identified one such target termed the “linear ubiquitin chain activation complex” or “LUBAC”.  He has found that LUBAC supports the survival of lymphomas and may play a role in drug resistance. The lab has also developed an inhibitor of LUBAC that is now ready to be tested in mouse models, with the ultimate aim of generating inhibitors that can be used in patients.  Importantly, these inhibitors may also help immunotherapy work more effectively.  Accordingly, support for Dr. Yang’s work may lead to hope for thousands of lymphoma patients for whom current therapies are not effective. 

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