Researcher Spotlight: Rahul Lakhotia, MBBS

National Institutes of Health

Indolent lymphomas frequently require multiple lines of treatment as the disease recurs; the frequency of treatment makes it important to balance efficacy with potential toxicities (side effects). Dr. Lakhotia’s LCRMP project tests a new combination of venetoclax, a BCL2 inhibitor already approved for certain CLL patients, with rituximab (Rituxan) and Hu5F9-G4, a macrophage checkpoint inhibitor, which works by disrupting the function of macrophages, a component of the tumor microenvironment that play a role in cancer cell growth. “Being a macrophage checkpoint inhibitor, it doesn’t have the adverse effects associated with immunecheckpoint inhibitors,” Dr. Lakhotia says. “We hypothesize that this combination will be more effective than any of the drugs given individually, and due to their non-overlapping side effect profile, the regimen will be tolerated well.”

Currently a Hematology/Oncology Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Dr. Lakhotia began his medical training with an MBBS (MD equivalent) from Seth G.S. Medical College and K.E.M. Hospital in Mumbai, India, before residency at Medstar Washington Hospital Center/ Georgetown University Hospital, where he was also Chief Resident. He first encountered lymphoma during residency, when a patient who seemed to have a rare autoimmune disease turned out to have DLBCL in their ovary. “As I learned more about the disease, I was deeply intrigued with the varied clinical manifestations and the complexity and heterogeneity of the various lymphoproliferative disorders,” he says. Now managing a variety of B and T-cell lymphoma patients at the NIH, Dr. Lakhotia works closely with Mark Roschewski, MD who he considers a role model for caring for lymphoma patients on various clinical research protocols.

Dr. Lakhotia is hoping his participation in the LCRMP will be beneficial to both his project and his career. “The LCRMP research plan is my first treatment protocol which I am developing with my mentor. Since it is at an early stage, participation in the LCRMP will provide me with valuable feedback on how to maximize the potential of this combination therapy,” he says, adding “Working at the NIH… the fellows don’t get a lot of experience in grant writing. Participation in LCRMP small groups and coursework focusing on grant writing will further help me in advancing this skill, a necessary requirement for being an independent investigator.” He adds, “If in the next ten years’ time, the research I contribute to helps patients in a meaningful way, I would be overjoyed.