MedUni Vienna: Cutaneous lymphoma: MedUni Vienna searches for prognostic markers and examines treatment options for this rare disease

Primary cutaneous lymphomas, cancers of the lymphatic system, occur in the skin and originate either from T-lymphocytes (T-cell lymphomas, incidence 75%) or in B-cell lymphocytes (B-cell lymphomas, 25%). Lymphocytes are cells of the blood system. This is a rare disease of ultimately unknown causation. Every year there are 6 – 8 new cases for every million people. MedUni Vienna is simultaneously conducting several studies relating to this disease with the aim of identifying prognostic markers for the course of the disease and also generally improving the quality of life and survival rate of those affected.

"In the early stage of the disease, the prognosis is excellent and normal life expectancy is hardly affected," explains Constanze Jonak of MedUni Vienna's Department of Dermatology. "But when the disease is advanced, the 5-year survival rate drops to 0 – 39% and the disease is terminal." Cutaneous lymphoma is always associated with symptoms of severe itching and skin rashes and, in the advanced stage, can lead to skin tumours and erythroderma ("red man syndrome"). The cutaneous symptoms of this disease can be disfiguring. Existing treatments are limited and, in any case, are only effective in the short term.

In a recent study, MedUni Vienna researchers were able to confirm prognostic markers for the disease and they are also taking part in the largest ever international study to establish a prognostic index for cutaneous lymphomas.

They also documented the longest after-care periods for patients with cutaneous B-cell lymphomas ever studied, using the antibody Rituximab (an antibody against the protein CD20), which targets surface markers on B-cells and brings about the destruction of the lymphoma cells. Jonak: "The treatment was very successful in the majority of patients. Recurrences were quite common but patients responded to the therapy once more.

In another project currently being conducted at MedUni Vienna's Department of Dermatology, cutaneous lymphoma patients are being surveyed regarding their quality of life and, for the first time, regarding their "perception of the disease" and "experience of the disease, their own personal experience and how they cope with this disease and the results are being analysed.  

Five research clusters at MedUni Vienna
In total, five research clusters have been established at MedUni Vienna. In these clusters, MedUni Vienna is increasingly focusing on fundamental and clinical research. The research clusters include medical imaging, cancer research/oncology, cardiovascular medicine, medical neurosciences and immunology. This paper falls within the remit of the Cluster for Immunology and Cancer Research/Oncology.

Event: The 16th World Congress on Cancers of the Skin
The 16th World Congress on Cancers of the Skin is taking place in the Hofburg on Heldenplatz in Vienna from 31 August – 3 September 2016. The 12th Congress of the European Association of Dermato Oncology (EADO) is being held at the same time. The local lead organisers are Christoph Höller from MedUni Vienna's Department of Dermatology and Hubert Pehamberger, Medical Director of the Rudolfinerhaus hospital and Head of the Department of Dermatology at MedUni Vienna for many years.

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