Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States. With an estimated 71,000 new cases diagnosed annually in America and about 19,000 deaths each year, the disease continues to vex researchers who seek to increase survival chances. While overall survivability has been on the upswing since the 1990s, according to the American Cancer Society, new research may offer insights into why some cases are more resistant to treatment than others.
To better understand lymphoma relapse and chemotherapy resistance, researchers looked at the ways in which genes malfunction to stunt the effects of chemotherapy. Their findings indicate that genes are only part of the blame for the failure of chemotherapy. Researchers found that changes in cancer cells’ epigenome may be a driving force behind disease progression.
The epigenome surrounds genetic DNA and determines what genes are turned off or on. It plays a powerful role in protein production and can modify gene expression by altering chemical balances of the methyl group. When methyl groups are added to a gene, the gene turns off. When they are removed, the gene turns on. The research shows that it may one day be possible to introduce drugs in the system to promote the desired turning on or off of cancer cells to reverse resistance to treatments for lymphoma and help chemotherapy medications and other drugs perform as desired.
While applications for the findings may be sometime away, the research has cast greater light on the genetic changes that occur when non-Hodgkin lymphoma is present. By gaining this insight, researchers one day may be able to better manipulate this disease on the genetic level to pave the way for more effective treatments that may increase survival statistics even more.
Patients who have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are urged to discuss their treatment plans with their healthcare providers. The best course of action will depend on the particular case at hand.