To better understand the response to treatment of patients with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a team of researchers at Brown University created a stratified risk score of patient prognosis. Burkitt lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system that derives from B lymphocytes; it is a rare lymphatic cancer as it represents only about 2% of lymphoid cancers. According to Dr. Jorge Castillo, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a hematology / oncology specialist at Rhode Island Hospital, there is little available on prognostic factors, indicators or scoring regarding Burkitt lymphoma.
In order to better understand the disease and prognosis of patients with Burkitt’s lymphoma, the team of investigators led by Dr. Castillo, analyzed medical records of 2,284 patients during a period of 11 years. Researchers focused on information such as survival rates, age, race, cancer location and stage of the cancer in the body. They found that although survival rates have significantly improved prognosis, these have not improved much for older patients or black people with advanced stage cancer. Analyzing these data, researchers used these risk factors to create a new risk score for patients with Burkitt lymphoma. According to this score, patients with the lowest score have 7 out of 10 chances to survive with treatment, while patients with the highest score have less than 3 in 10 chance to survive.
Castillo and his team of researchers from Brown University have found that age has a significant impact on survival. It seems that patients aged over 80 have a risk of dying from cancer five times higher than patients aged 20-39 years. In addition, it was also found that the risk of death is directly correlated with the stage of the cancer: patients with Burkitt lymphoma stage IV had a 2.4 times greater risk of dying than patients with Burkitt lymphoma stage I.
Another risk factor was the race: black people had a risk of death 1.6 times higher than Hispanics and whites. It should be noted that patients’ survival rate improved significantly over time: in 1998 the rate of overall survival was 34.7%, while in 2007 it increased to 62.1% for the youngest adult patients. However, it must be said that for patients over 60 years, the survival rate increased only to 43%. Dr Castillo said that this score has several applications not only for doctors, but also for patients. By applying this score, they understand what to expect and how to assess treatment regimens or other treatment options.