Lymphoma Drug Effective as 1st Line Treatment

TUESDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- Eight years after first-line treatment with a radioimmunotherapy drug called Bexxar, 86 percent of 76 patients with follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma were still alive and nearly two-thirds were in complete remission.

Those study findings, by researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, were to be presented Monday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting, in Chicago.

Follicular lymphoma is a type of cancer that's not considered to be curable using traditional treatments, according to background information in a news release about the study. Even if the disease responds to initial treatment, it almost always returns and is even more difficult to treat.

Bexxar (chemical name tositumomab and iodine I 131 tositumomab) combines an antibody that seeks out cancer cells, and a radioactive form of the element iodine. When injected, Bexxar binds to a protein on the surface of cancer cells, delivering radiation directly to cancer cells with minimal effect on surrounding healthy tissue.

"For years we have known radioimmunotherapy such as Bexxar is one of the most effective treatments for patients with relapsed follicular lymphoma. These data show Bexxar is particularly effective when used as a frontline treatment," Dr. Mark Kaminski, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

"These (study) results compare quite favorably with those achieved with state-of-the-art chemotherapy regimens that take months to deliver. But Bexxar is given as a single treatment, completed within one week, which makes it an extremely convenient regimen for patients," he said.

Kaminski was one of the University of Michigan researchers who developed the Bexxar regimen, which was approved in 2003 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after other treatments had failed.

This new study of Bexxar as a first-line treatment for follicular lymphoma received funding from drug maker GlaxoSmithKline. The University of Michigan holds patents for the Bexxar therapeutic regimen, which is marketed by GlaxoSmithKline under a licensing agreement. The university receives royalties on sales of Bexxar, and a portion of those royalties goes to Kaminski and his regimen co-inventors.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCES: University of Michigan, news release, June 4, 2007

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