Make your home page

Health Spotlight: Targeting rare cancers

Health Spotlight: Targeting rare cancers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — 80,000 people will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 20,000 people will die from it. It usually hits people in their 60’s, but can happen at any age. There are several types and the rarer the form, the less likely you will survive it. Now, a popular actor’s diagnosis this year is showing different ways other patients can beat it too.

He’s battled prehistoric predators in Jurassic Park, but now he’s in an even more courageous battle.

Earlier this year, Sam Neill, the 75-year-old actor famous for his lead role in Jurassic Park, announced he had Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma, also known as AITL.

A new chemo drug put Neill in remission, but his diagnosis has put a spotlight on this rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Sam Neill presented, kind of, right at the right median age of when most people are diagnosed with this,” said Bradley Haverkos, an oncologist with the University of Colorado, Anschutz. “They commonly present with things like fever, chills, night sweats, some weight loss.”

Oncologists say there are promising new therapies in the pipeline for AITL. The first targets a biomarker in the Epstein-Barr virus that is also present in patients with AITL. They use a combination of drugs to kill the virus.

“We can get rid of the lymphoma cells ’cause we think the virus, in part, drives the cancer,” said Haverkos. “We’re also very interested and see if we can develop ways so that your own immune system can fight this cancer as well.”

Two new therapies that could give Neill, and others like him, a chance to win against this killer.

There’s a lot riding on these new therapies.
Haverkos says only 25% of people are alive five years after diagnosis.
Once you relapse with this disease, it’s generally incurable.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.