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New cancer drug boosts survival in patients with lymphoma

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

5, 2017 4:02pm


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.

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.”

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

maker Roche sponsored the study published in the New England Journal of

Originally published by Herald Sun:


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