The American Society of Hematology (ASH) – the world’s leading association in the field of hematology – has awarded Dr. Adalgisa Condoluci, a researcher at the IOR, with the “ASH Global Research Award 2021”. Dr. Condoluci is one of the twelve researchers selected for this honor, which aims to support research projects conducted by young researchers outside the United States and Canada.
“The recipients of the ASH Global Research Award will conduct important research that will help increase hematology capacity in their home countries”, said Martin S. Tallman, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and President of the 2021 ASH. The researchers selected for this year represent ten countries: Australia, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Nigeria, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The research project of the IOR investigates the use of the so-called liquid biopsy to improve long-term therapeutic results in patients with early-stage Hodgkin lymphoma. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are treatments that are normally used in these patients and able to cure the tumor the majority of cases. However, in a small percentage of patients, the disease relapses, and in a similar percentage of cases, patients develop serious cardio-pulmonary complications or even secondary tumors after several years as a result of the treatment toxicity. On these bases, current research aims to find ways to avoid these serious late complications and to improve the percentage of cured patients.
To date, two indicators seem useful to avoid adding radiotherapy to patients who have responded well to chemotherapy. The first one is represented by PET (positron tomography), which is capable of quantifying the quality and speed of the response to chemotherapy. The second tool is represented by the so-called liquid biopsy, which allows demonstrating the presence of even minute quantities of gene material released by tumor cells in patients’ blood. In Hodgkin lymphomas, the persistence of this tumor-gene material at the end of chemotherapy or its reappearance months or years later indicates the need for complementary treatment, and therefore the use of radiotherapy. Otherwise, radiotherapy can be spared, thus decreasing the toxicity of the entire treatment.
A very accurate diagnostic test that demonstrates the presence of this tumor-gene material in the blood was developed by the experimental hematology group of the Oncology Research Institute (IOR) in Bellinzona, led by Prof. Davide Rossi. Dr. Condoluci will now apply this methodology to patients enrolled in a multicenter study, which is currently ongoing in 40 European centers. Thanks to this study, it will be possible to definitively demonstrate the usefulness of these two indicators to spare radiotherapy for most patients with early-stage Hodgkin lymphoma.