IOR lays the foundation for a new clinical trial against lymphomas

Blastoid mantle cell lymphoma (image courtesy of med. S. Dirnhofer, Basel)

Blastoid mantle cell lymphoma (image courtesy of med. S. Dirnhofer, Basel)

A study conducted by med.  Francesco Bertoni at the Institute of Oncology Research ( IOR , affiliated to USI) has shown that a specific combination of drugs is a potentially winning strategy in the fight against lymphomas. The results obtained in the laboratory have enabled the researchers at the Istituto Oncologico della Svizzera italiana ( IOSI ) to develop a clinical study together with the Swiss Group for Clinical Cancer Research ( SAKK ). The laboratory study was published in Blood Advances, a scientific journal of the American Society of Hematology (ASH).


The lymphatic system is one of the body’s natural defense systems against infections and various diseases. Lymphomas are tumors that originate from the lymphatic system and are divided into different types, each with different characteristics, aggressiveness, evolution and prognosis.

The standard treatment of lymphomas (chemo or radiotherapy) is often successful, but there are refractory cases that develop the ability to resist to drugs and thus do not respond to these therapeutic approaches anymore. There is a known group of proteins that cause cancer cells to proliferate and no longer respond to normal control mechanisms. These are the proteins of the "PI3K" group (family of enzymes involved in complex cellular mechanisms), which can be blocked pharmacologically, for example with idelalisib, which is already in use in the clinic.

The discovery

Since some lymphomas do not respond to standard therapy, a potentially successful strategy is targeting multiple processes that support the growth of cancer cells. The study published in Blood Advances, a journal of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), focuses on the new drug copanlisib, produced by Bayer, which blocks the proteins of the PI3K group, invoved in controlling cell growth and proliferation. Researchers Chiara Tarantelli (IOR) and Martin Lange (Bayer), together with other colleagues, studied the activity of copanlisib in the laboratory. The results of the study show that this drug has the ability to reduce the growth of lymphomas, and the effect is on lymphomas derived from both B cells and T cells of the lymphatic system. Combined with venetoclax - a drug that promotes a specific type of programmed cell death (apoptosis) - the anti-tumor effect of the two drugs administered alone is enhanced. The results obtained in this study have provided the basis for the design and development of the clinical study led by PD Dr. med. Anastasios Stathis (USI) at the Istituto Oncologico della Svizzera italiana (IOSI). The study conducted by the Swiss Cancer Clinical Research Group (SAKK) is open to patients with relapsed of refractory B-cell lymphomas.

Publication references

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