Dialog Box

12 October 2017

New cancer drug boosts survival in patients with lymphoma

Written by Lucie van den Berg, Medical reporter, Herald Sun

October 5, 2017 4:02pm


A RE-ENGINEERED cancer drug is better at controlling a common form of lymphoma than current therapies, new trial results reveal.

The new drug reduced the likelihood of patients dying and their disease progressing within three years.

Follicular lymphoma makes up a quarter of all cases of the common blood cancer.

“Survival of these patients is about 15 years on average,” Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre’s Director of Haematology Professor John Seymour said.

“But the nature of the disease is that even though it responds well to treatment it tends to relentlessly reoccur and patients typically need multiple episodes of chemotherapy through their lifespan.”

Currently patients receive chemotherapy and a 20 year old drug called rituximab.

It’s a monoclonal antibody that recognises, targets and latches onto a protein on the surface of the cancer cell to kill it.

In a trial, 1200 patients in 13 countries received chemotherapy; half were randomised to get the standard antibody, while the others received the new version.

This drug, called obinutuzumab, is a re-engineered version of the old drug.

It’s designed to kill more cancer cells directly and recruit and direct other cells from the body for the fight.

The trial, co-authored by Prof Seymour, found a 34 per cent reduction in the risk of the lymphoma returning within three years in patients receiving the new therapy.

Although it came with a small increase in side-effects, such as infections requiring hospitalisations, and led to slightly more patients stopping the therapy.

“Over the years we have made significant improves in treatments; the overall survival of patients is now roughly double what it was 20 years ago,” Prof Seymour said.

“This finding not a breakthrough or a cure, it’s another significant, but incremental, step forward.”

A golf-ball sized lump in his neck was the only outward sign of the cancer in Andrew Jakimiuk’s stomach, armpits and bone marrow.

“I had it everywhere I could, it was such a shock because I felt fine,” he said.

The father of four, 47, had the new therapy and six months of chemotherapy through the Monash Health Clinical Trials Centre.

Scans show he’s now in remission, but he’ll continue the therapy for several years.

“I’m ecstatic, it was so great to actually see the cancer disappear,” he said.

The drug is already available in Australians for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia, but not yet approved for use in this type of lymphoma.

Drug maker Roche sponsored the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Originally published by Herald Sun:


Category: Research