It Took Two to Fight Lymphoma

Some lymphoma patients may see better recovery rates and fewer side effects with new approach

(RxWiki News) Treatment for follicular lymphoma — the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma — often comes with serious side effects. New research may change that for many patients.

Researchers found promising results fighting follicular lymphoma by boosting the immune system while stimulating special white blood cells to combat the cancer.

The patients in the study had fewer and milder side effects compared to treatments such as chemotherapy.

A higher percentage of patients in the study saw their cancer improve versus the standard treatment.

"See your doctor immediately about any enlarged lymph nodes."

This study was led by Sattva Neelapu, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.

Dr. Neelapu and his team tested combining the monoclonal antibody rituximab (Rituxan) and an experimental medication called pidilizumab on 29 patients with relapsed follicular lymphoma.

These researchers found that the combination of rituximab and pidilizumab had only mild side effects with no severe reactions.

The most common side effects reported to researchers where anemia in 14 patients and fatigue in 13 patients.

The researchers found that 66 percent of participants saw either a complete or partial recovery, with 52 percent having a complete recovery.

“Our findings indicate rituximab and pidilizumab together are safe and highly active in follicular lymphoma,” Dr. Neelapu said.

The researchers used rituximab to strengthen the immune system. In addition, the researchers added pidilizumab in the hope of making T-cells, a special kind of white blood cell, more aggressive towards the cancer.

“Rituximab treatment alone usually achieves a 40 percent overall response rate and about 11 percent complete responses, and the side effect profile of the combination is about the same as rituximab alone. Adding pidilizumab greatly improves responses so far at little cost in additional side effects,” said Dr. Neelapu.

Researchers sought to improve upon current treatments like chemotherapy, which often cause serious side effects such as a weakened immune system. The tested treatment showed milder side effects for the patients as well as a higher rate of patient recovery than traditonal treatment.

This study was published December 11 in The Lancet Oncology.

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Specialized Center of Research, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Cure Tech. This work was also supported by the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award.

Dr. Neelapu received research support from Cure Tech. Co-author Rinat Rotem-Yehudar, PhD, is an employee of Cure Tech. The other authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 17, 2013