A new drug has been found to show promise in treating patients with indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Idelalisib, made by Seattle-based Gilead Sciences Inc., could be on the market as soon as this year, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration, according to researchers who reported their finding sin the New England Journal of Medicine.
Slow-growing, or indolent, non-Hodgkin lymphomas are notoriously difficult to treat, with most patients relapsing and the disease becoming increasingly resistant to therapy over time.
But in a study involving 125 patients, who had not responded to conventional treatments or had relapsed within six months of therapy, researchers found twice-daily doses of idelalisib shrunk tumors in 57 percent of the participants and 6 percent had no measurable evidence of cancer.
"These are patients who had exhausted current standard therapies," said Ajay Gopal, M.D., a member of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Clinical Research Division and the study's lead researcher. "In terms of effective therapy available, there really wasn't much left."
About 20,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with the disease in 2012 and approximately 7,000 died from it. The standard treatment is a combination of the rituximab and chemotherapy.
While conventional treatment can be initially effective, most patients relapse over time and suffer life-threatening complications such as infections and marrow failure.
The NEJM paper, which was funded by Gilead Sciences and involved co-authors from 17 institutions in the U.S. and Europe, is the first publication of clinical data on idelalisib.
The FDA is reviewing the drug, giving it a "Breakthrough Therapy" designation for treatment of relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) based on the results of another clinical trial.
Gopal said that while it doesn't appear that the drug is curative, it holds tremendous promise for helping to control the disease for long periods of time.
"I think there's going to be a lot of interest in it," he said. "Chemotherapy is a very blunt instrument. This is much more specific."
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