John Theurer Cancer Center Investigators Celebrate Newly Approved Lymphoma Therapies Evaluated in Clinical Trials at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center

April 5, 2021

New Treatments Expand Options for Patients with Persistent Cancers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved two new treatment approaches for certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphomas which were assessed in pioneering clinical trials at John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center: umbralisib and CAR T-cell therapy.

Umbralisib (Ukoniq™) was approved on February 5 for patients with marginal zone lymphoma or follicular lymphoma whose cancer came back or continued to grow despite prior treatment. It works by blocking multiple enzymes involved in cancer growth. It is very convenient for patients because it is a tablet that can be taken by mouth.

CAR T-cell therapy with axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta®) was approved on March 5 for use in patients with follicular lymphoma that persists or came back after two or more prior therapies. With CAR T-cell therapy, immune cells called T cells are removed from the patient, genetically modified in the laboratory to recognize certain targets and attack cancer cells, grown to larger quantities (hundreds of millions), and returned to the patient—where these modified T cells can now find, bind to, and kill cancer cells. The treatment is given intravenously in the hospital like a transfusion.

Physicians in the Lymphoma Division at John Theurer Cancer Center have been at the forefront of the development of many novel therapies for lymphoma. Lori Leslie, M.D., director of the Indolent Lymphoma and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia programs at John Theurer Cancer Center, is the principal investigator at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center for the UNITY-NHL clinical trial of umbralisib in marginal zone and follicular lymphoma as well as the ZUMA-5 clinical trial of axicabtagene ciloleucel in patients with follicular lymphoma. The findings of these two studies led to the recent FDA approvals.

Said Dr. Leslie, “We are very excited to be able to offer patients with these challenging cancers additional treatment options with the potential to improve their outcomes and extend their lives.”

“The treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphomas is a rapidly transforming field, offering new and needed  options in patients who failed standard therapies,” said Andre Goy, M.D., Chairman & Executive Director, Lymphoma Division Chief – John Theurer Cancer Center, Chief Science Officer – RCCA, Lydia Pfund Chair for Lymphoma, Professor of Medicine – Georgetown University, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Oncology, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “JTCC broad clinical research program has allowed us to be at the forefront of these new developments and our CAR T cell program was the 1st implemented in NJ and remains the lead CART program in the state with trials in lymphoma, myeloma, leukemia and now even solid tumors”.