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Expert Highlights Advances in Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma

Angelica Welch
Published: Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

Wei Z. Ai, MD
Wei Z. Ai, MD
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is known to be a rare malignancy, with approximately 3000 diagnoses per year. Historically, progress in developing therapies for this form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) has been slow, but 2017 brought about the FDA approval of brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris), giving hope to this poor-prognosis population.

Wei Z. Ai, MD, an associate clinical professor and hematologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center, gave a presentation on recent developments in T-cell lymphoma during the 2017 OncLive® State of the Science SummitTM on Hematologic Malignancies. In an interview during the meeting, Ai discussed the impact of brentuximab vedotin, as well as the potential with mogamulizumab in CTCL.

OncLive: What recent data have we seen in this space?

Ai: In systemic T-cell lymphoma, there were no practice-changing trials presented [at the 2017 ASH Annual Meeting]. However, we are hoping for results from some exciting phase I/II trials in 2018. Phase III trials based on those trials are ongoing, and may be practice changing.

As for CTCL, 2017 was a very exciting year. In the history of this disease, there have only been about 3 randomized studies as it is such a rare disease with only 3000 new cases a year. The first one was in the 1980s, which showed sequential single-agent therapy is as good as combination agents. This is why we treat these patients very differently than the systemic T-cell lymphoma where we almost always use combinations. Two phase III studies were presented at the 2017 ASH Annual Meeting, one of which contributed to the approval of brentuximab vedotin in CTCL about 1 month prior to its presentation at the meeting. The third phase III study of mogamulizumab for CTCL will hopefully lead to an approval very soon; the FDA has granted it a breakthrough designation. 

How has the approval of brentuximab vedotin impacted clinical practice thus far? 

In my experience, this is a highly active drug, particularly in the advanced-stage disease. CTCL is a very heterogeneous disease; 75% present with early-stage disease and only 25% present with advanced-stage disease. Therefore, as oncologists, we are going to see the patients who are much sicker than the average patients with CTCL.

For early-stage disease, patients receive skin-directed therapy that is often managed by a dermatologist. For advanced-stage disease, patients require system therapy. However, the way that systemic therapy is given to these patients is very different than in systemic T-cell lymphomas. At UCSF, we are very fortunate to have a multidisciplinary clinic where we have dermatologists and radiation oncologists.

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