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Cohen Discusses Future of MCL Treatment

Brandon Scalea
Published: Tuesday, Nov 20, 2018

Jonathon B. Cohen, MD

Jonathon B. Cohen, MD

Novel and chemotherapy-free approaches will likely become the future of mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) management, even in previously untreated patients, according to Jonathon B. Cohen, MD.

Cohen, an assistant professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute, discussed the evolving MCL landscape.

OncLive: What are some challenges with treating patients with MCL?

Cohen: What we are finding with MCL is that it really is a number of different diseases; it has a bunch of different behaviors. A physician may see a patient with MCL once or twice a year, and those patients may have radically different presentations and clinical behaviors. As we learn more about the biology of MCL, it makes it more challenging to figure out the best treatment.

What we used to do is decide if someone could tolerate intensive therapy. If they could, then they received high-dose therapy. We are learning now that there are some subtypes of MCL where intensive therapy simply does not work, and there are some subtypes that typically behave indolently. 

Is a combination approach beneficial in this space?

There is a lot of interest in incorporating novel treatment strategies. There is the potential to even get rid of frontline chemotherapy. We have pretty mature data suggesting that lenalidomide with rituximab leads to pretty long remissions in patients. These patients may need to stay on therapy for a long time, but they do well. The right combination could become the future of this disease. Cytarabine-based chemotherapy is a traditionally important drug, but it is toxic. 

Do BTK inhibitors have potential in the frontline setting?

This is something we are all hoping to find out soon. There have been a number of ongoing studies investigating this. It definitely looks promising, but one of the challenges we are seeing is that most patients with MCL will ultimately progress. Ibrutinib alone is unlikely to be a frontline answer, but I think we can find the right novel approach. 

Does CAR T-cell therapy have potential in MCL?

Anecdotally, we have had patients at our center do well on CAR T cells. Like other lymphoma subtypes, the challenge is determining where it fits into the treatment algorithm. For aggressive lymphomas, it is a little easier because we do not have as many novel approaches to choose from. In MCL, there are a number of available drugs that do not require the intensive approach that CAR T cells require. However, it is an interesting field. 

Are there any other treatment strategies in MCL that could have potential?

We are exploring novel, chemotherapy-free approaches. These are being tested in the relapsed setting, but they have some potential in the frontline setting. The goal is to prolong remission in these patients. 
Ruan J, Martin P, Christos P, et al. Initial treatment with lenalidomide plus rituximab for mantle cell lymphoma: 5-year follow-up and correlative analysis from a multi-center phase II study. Blood. 2017:130(1):154.

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