Researchers discover master regulator that drives the majority of lymphomas

May 16, 2013

A soon-to-be-tested class of drug inhibitors has been predicted to help a limited number of patients with B-cell lymphomas with mutations affecting the EZH2 protein. Now, however, a research team led by investigators at Weill Cornell Medical College reports that these agents may help a much broader cross section of lymphoma patients. The study, reported in Cancer Cell, found that the EZH2 protein the drug agents inhibited is a powerful regulatory molecule in B-cells, and a key driver of cancer in these immune cells.

The lead investigator, Ari Melnick, MD, suggests that combining an EZH2 inhibitor with another related targeted therapy may offer a much improved treatment for follicular lymphoma, a cancer that currently has no cure, as well as a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy for at least a third of diffuse large B-cell lymphomas. Because these two lymphomas account for 70% of adult lymphomas, Dr. Melnick believes the new therapy could help a broad cross section of lymphoma patients.

“Our research indicates that these inhibitors will be remarkably effective. I am very optimistic,” says Dr. Melnick. “Researchers had thought EZH2 inhibitors would help only patients with a mutation in their EZH2 gene, which represents a small subset of lymphoma patients. What we found is that a majority of lymphomas turn out to be dependent on normal EZH2, not just mutated EZH2. EZH2 is a master regulator protein that turns off the brakes that prevent cell division, so it allows cells to divide without stopping.” Read a summary of the article, with figures.