Study shows 80 per cent overall response rate in patients with

According to study results just presented at the 39th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), high response rates and durable remissions were reported in patients with low-grade, follicular and transformed non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) taking the drug Zevalin™ , which uses a “smart bomb” approach to bring radiation directly to cancer cells.

Canadian clinical trials of Zevalin™ are currently underway in eight centres across the country.

Radioimmunotherapy is an important treatment option for NHL patients because lymphoma cells are inherently sensitive to radiation. As well, it offers the advantage of highly targeted treatment, enabling the treatment of multiple disease sites while limiting exposure of healthy cells.

Zevalin™ is the first radioimmunotherapy in the world that will be approved for the treatment of patients with relapsed low-grade B-cell NHL.

The pivotal phase III randomized trial compared overall response (OR) rates of relapsed/refractory low-grade, follicular and transformed NHL patients who received Zevalin™ therapy with OR rates of NHL patients who received rituximab therapy (a non-radioactive immunotherapy). The OR rate of patients that received Zevalin™ was significantly higher at 80% in comparison to the 56% OR seen in patients who received rituximab therapy alone (p = 0.002).

“We are encouraged by the results of this trial and look forward to the availability of Zevalin™ in Canada in the coming months,” said Dr. Richard Klasa, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver.

Incidence of NHL has nearly doubled in Canada since the early 1970s. It is one of the few cancers still on the rise in terms of new cases and deaths. In 2002, there were an estimated 6,400 new NHL cases and an estimated 2,800 NHL related deaths in Canada. 1