UP to 7 years to get a diagnosis. This is the amount of time it can take to detect cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), a rare form of cancer. The symptoms are very similar to those of other more common skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis, but its consequences are even more serious: only half of patients with advanced lymphoma are alive five years after the onset of the disease. For this reason, research must be encouraged and the training of medical specialists improved, in order to be able to increase the possibilities of treatment and the quality of life of patients. An appeal that arrives today, in World Lymphoma Awareness Day.
What are cutaneous T-cell lymphomas
“Cutaneous T-cell lymphomas occur mainly on the skin, in the form of plaques that appear in areas of the body usually not exposed to the sun”, explains Giuseppe Argenziano, full professor and director of the Dermatological clinic of the University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli” of Naples: “They can also involve the blood, lymph nodes and some internal organs”.
This disease affects men twice as many as women and the average age is between 55 and 60. It is divided into two subgroups: mycosis fungoides and Sézary’s syndrome. As with many other rare diseases, the exact cause remains largely unknown. “The disease must be treated by a multidisciplinary team since in the initial forms of mycosis fungoides it is the dermatologist who makes the diagnosis and prescribes the therapy”, continues the expert: “For the most advanced and important forms, close collaboration is instead necessary by a hematologist specialist. Only in this way can we guarantee adequate examinations and treatments. Today, in fact, we have new therapies that have proven to be able to delay the progression of the disease and at the same time improve the quality of life of patients, because they are usually well tolerated “.
Mycosis fungoides and Sézary’s syndrome
Mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome are the two most studied types of CTCL. Together they account for about two-thirds of all CTCLs. The first is the most frequent subtype (60-70%), while the second is a rarer but very aggressive form. Both pathologies are characterized by a progressive physical disfigurement with patches, plaques and tumor nodules, erythroderma, severe itching, pain, lymphadenopathy and alopecia. “This lymphoma radically compromises the quality of life of those living with the disease, as it has a serious and profound impact on daily activities and social interactions,” says Pablo Viguera Ester, Southern Europe Medical Director for Kyowa Kirin, the pharmaceutical company that developed a new therapy: a “first in class” humanized monoclonal antibody, directed against the CCR4 chemokine receptor found on the surface of malignant T cells, characteristic of mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome.
World Lymphoma Awareness Day
It is very important, however, to be able to identify cutaneous T-cell lymphoma as soon as possible, in order to have a better chance of being able to stop the disease. This is currently not always the case. “This is why – Argenziano underlines – initiatives such as Today’s Day are fundamental, which aim to turn the spotlight on pathologies that are not always at the center of attention by citizens, doctors and institutions”. The initiative was born in 2004 organized by the Lymphoma Coalition, a non-profit organization that has 64 patient groups in 44 countries around the world. This year, the global lymphoma community comes together to say “We Can’t Wait” to end the unwanted consequences the pandemic has had on the lymphoma community. Around the world, people have had reduced access to care, treatment and support and a delay in diagnoses.