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Researcher Spotlight: Benedikt Pelzer, MD

The Levine Family Fellowship

Marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) is a slow-growing type of cancer that can eventually transform into a more aggressive diffuse B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) in a subset of patients. Both MZL and DLBCL are characterized by a high frequency of alterations in the NOTCH2 gene, and Dr. Pelzer’s research is aimed at determining whether these alterations predispose patients with MZL to transformation and the subsequent worse treatment outcomes associated with the more aggressive disease. “Therefore,” he says, “we would like to identify the underlying mechanisms as well as develop new and targeted treatments to salvage these patients in the future.”

Dr. Pelzer’s interest in hematological malignancies began during his time in medical school at the University of Duisburg-Essen School of Medicine in Germany. He was drawn to the lymphoma field as a resident at the University of Cologne (Germany), where he was able to work closely with lymphoma patients. “Sad and joyful stories are often close to each other on a hematology ward, sometimes even literally in the neighboring bed of the patient,” he says. “It is my goal that we will be able to tell many more joyful stories in the future.”

Through his research, Dr. Pelzer hopes to develop the skills necessary to establish himself as a physician-scientist working toward novel treatments for underserved patients with lymphoma. “As the unraveling of the molecular pathogenesis of lymphomas made great advances in the last decade, there are many new treatment strategies on their way,” he says. “However, the subtype of lymphoma I am now working on is heavily neglected, encouraging me to elucidate pathomechanisms and subsequently develop new treatment options [for these patients].”

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