According to results presented at the 2006 annual Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium, the treatment combination consisting of Rituxan® (rituximab) plus Leukine® (sargramostim, GM-CSF) is effective among patients with low-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, even among those whose cancer has progressed following prior therapies.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is a form of cancer that begins in the cells of the lymph system. The lymph system includes the spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and circulating immune cells. The main cells in the lymph system are lymphocytes, of which there are two types: B- and T-cells. Each cell type has a specific function in helping the body fight infection. The vast majority of NHL cases involve B-cells.
NHL is characterized by the excessive accumulation of atypical (cancerous) lymphocytes. These lymphocytes can crowd the lymph system and suppress the formation and function of other immune and blood cells. NHL is categorized by the type of lymphocyte it involves and by the rate at which the cancer grows. Follicular lymphoma comprises 30% of all NHL diagnoses and is considered a low-grade or indolent lymphoma, which means that it is a slow-growing form of lymphoma.
Rituxan is a targeted therapy that binds to specific components of B-lymphocytes, the most common cancerous cells in NHL. The binding of Rituxan to the B-lymphocytes ultimately causes the destruction of the cancer cells. Rituxan is a commonly used agent in the treatment of various forms of NHL. Researchers continue to evaluate ways to improve anticancer responses to Rituxan.
Leukine is a growth factor, or cytokine, which is an agent that can stimulate the immune system to help fight or prevent infection or disease. It is commonly used among patients with leukemia who are undergoing stem cell transplantation. Leukine is also thought to have properties that improve Rituxan’s cancer-killing effects by stimulating the immune system. Side effects associated with Leukine are generally mild to moderate.
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Researchers from France recently conducted a clinical trial to further evaluate Rituxan plus Leukine in the treatment of low-grade lymphomas. This trial included 46 patients, 39 of whom had follicular NHL. Forty patients had received prior therapy and experienced a relapse of their cancer.
- Anticancer responses occurred in 70% of patients with relapsed NHL with in 45% demonstrating a complete disappearance of detectable cancer.
- 100% of the six patients who had not received prior therapies experienced anticancer responses.
- The median progression-free survival for patients who had relapsed NHL was nearly 17 months.
The researchers concluded that the treatment combination consisting of Rituxan and Leukine appears to be a promising approach to the treatment of low-grade NHL, even among those with relapsed disease. Patients with relapsed NHL may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating Rituxan/Leukine or other promising therapeutic approaches. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and www.eCancerTrials.com.
Reference: Rossi J-F. Rituxan and GM-CSF activity in low-grade lymphoma. Oral presentation at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium. New York, NY. November 8-11, 2006.
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