Researcher Spotlight: Reid Merryman, MD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) is a slow-growing B-cell NHL that has a relatively low number of new diagnoses each year. As a result, few clinical trials are available for MZL patients, including virtually none testing the novel immunotherapy treatments that have proven successful in other lymphoma subtypes. Dr. Merryman’s LCRMP project seeks to test a combination of two therapies for MZL patients: duvelisib (Copiktra), a PI3K inhibitor recently approved for certain CLL and FL patients, and a newly developed immune checkpoint inhibitor that targets the protein OX40. “Duvelisib kills lymphoma cells by blocking signaling through proteins called PI3 kinase delta and gamma,”Dr. Merryman says. “In addition, duvelisib stimulates the immune system and together with a drug targeting OX40, may be able to establish a long-lasting immune response that targets and kills lymphoma cells.”

Dr. Merryman sees his project as filling a currently unmet need in lymphoma clinical research. “Despite the important role that immune dysregulation [a malfunction or mutation of human immune cells] plays in the development of many cases of marginal zone lymphoma, there have been few studies that have tested immune-based strategies for this lymphoma subtype. I am hopeful that this clinical trial can lead the way for new therapeutic approaches in this disease.”

Dr. Merryman received his MD from Harvard Medical School and completed his residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, before his current hematology/oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He became interested in lymphoma because of its clinical diversity, both in terms of the difference between aggressive and indolent lymphomas, and the variety of ages of his patients. “My patients are a continuous source of inspiration for me,” he says. “They are a daily reminder that more work is needed so that we can provide, safer, smarter, and more effective treatments for all of our patients with lymphoma.”

Dr. Merryman hopes to develop as a clinical researcher with a focus on testing novel immunotherapy approaches in lymphoma, including personalizing treatment through the identification of biomarkers. He sees the LCRMP as an “amazing opportunity to learn from national leaders” in lymphoma research. He adds,“The program allows young investigators like me to build relationships with current and future leaders in the field that I hope will spur research collaborations in the future.”