The LRF Research Program: Disease Focus Areas

The Lymphoma Research Foundation's (LRF) disease focus areas bring attention and resources to bear on particular types of lymphoma: chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL); diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL); follicular lymphoma and mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) have received support. These grants help their focus area, but the commonalities among lymphomas, and other blood cancers, often mean that findings and developments in one type of lymphoma may have an impact on other types. For instance, in 1997 Rituximab was approved by the FDA to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is now used more widely to treat both leukemias and lymphomas. Likewise, Revlimid was originally developed to treat multiple myeloma but is now being studied for potential efficacy in lymphoma.

LRF has made the following Disease Focus Area Awards as of July 2012:

  • 7 Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma since 2006 for $3.13 million
  • 2 Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma since 2012 for $500,000
  • 13 Follicular Lymphoma since 2006 for $8.66 million
  • 47 Mantle Cell Lymphoma since 2003 for $24.3 million

To see a listing of current grants click here.

The Mantle Cell Lymphoma Initiative - Results

The Mantle Cell Lymphoma Initiative was created in late 2003 with a remarkable anonymous donation to support research in the area. With 47 grants funded since that time as well as the development of an MCL Consortium and an annual meeting, significant headway has been made in understanding this disease which was only identified as a separate form of lymphoma in the 1990s. We have achieved:

  • Better understanding of molecular and cellular basis of MCL clinical heterogeneity; Use of DNA microarray technology helps to distinguish indolent from aggressive MCL; Gene expression profiling, a novel "Five Gene Model" for MCL helps to predict a patient's prognosis—and helps to tailor treatments; Association of MCL signaling pathways and novel targeting; and Advances in understanding new molecular targets such as the heat shock protein (HSP), enzymes, and a dual target radio-immunotherapy approach.

And, most important of all, we are seeing improved survival rates over the past several years as reported in Drs. Wolfgang Hiddemann, MD, PhD and Martin Dreyling, MD, PhD, of the University of Munich, published in The American Journal of Hematology/Oncology, December 2009.

And, in a for instance, Dr. Oliver Press, MD, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a 2007-10 Mantle Cell Lymphoma Grant Recipient reports that

"[My LRF Grant] has allowed me to develop a successful adoptive T cell therapy program for MCL (that also has utility for other CD20-… lymphomas). … 5 manuscripts in prestigious journals … an NIH R21 grant, and grants from [other foundations]."

Although smaller programs, the Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma and the Follicular Lymphoma grants have led to some excellent results:

  • Improved understanding of potential CLL targets;
  • Identification of an existing FDA approved drug now used for another disease which may also be effective in CLL—the researchers are now working toward a possible clinical trial;
  • Enhanced understanding of genes involved in the development of follicular lymphoma; and
  • Progress toward development of a gene-therapy approach for follicular lymphoma is in early stages but shows promise.

NOTE: The Disease Focus Area grants are dependent on funding availability. Funds for these grants come in large part from major gifts given in support of these areas. Those funds are often enhanced significantly by donation drives adding to a major gift. To learn more about supporting the LRF research portfolio, click here.