Rituxan delays chemo for slow-growing lymphoma

* 91 pct of Rituxan patients did not require chemo

* No difference in overall survival

LOS ANGELES, Dec 5 (BestGrowthStock) – A trial of Roche Holding’s

The typical practice for patients with such advanced-stage
follicular lymphoma has been a watchful-waiting approach in
which use of chemotherapy, which causes debilitating side
effects, is delayed until the cancer progresses.

Of the 60,000 or so cases of non-Hodkgin’s lymphoma
diagnosed in the United States each year, about one quarter are
“indolent,” said Sandra Horning, head of hematology/oncology
clinical development at Roche’s Genentech unit. About 40
percent of those cases fall into the “watch and wait” category,
she said.

Follicular lymphoma is a slow-developing but incurable form
of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is one of the most common types
of lymphoma, which is a cancer of the lymphatic system.

The Rituxan trial found that after three years, 49 percent
of patients in the watchful-waiting arm had not required new
therapy, while 80 percent of patients treated for a short
period with Rituxan and 91 percent of patients treated
periodically with the drug had not required new therapy.

Researchers, who presented the study results in Orlando,
Florida, on Sunday at a meeting of the American Society of
Hematology, said 96 percent of patients in the study remain
alive, and there is no difference in overall survival between
the three arms.

Rituxan, first approved in 1997, is currently marketed for
treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, rheumatoid arthritis and
chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Sales last year totaled 6.1
billion Swiss francs, or about $5.6 billion.

The drug, given by infusion, is an antibody that binds to a
specific protein, CD20, found on the surface of malignant and
normal B-cell lymphocytes, enlisting the body’s own immune
system to kill marked cells.

Results from an earlier-stage trial of Roche’s third
generation anti-CD20 antibody, an experimental drug known as
GA101, were slated for presentation at the hematology meeting
later on Sunday.

Horning said the new molecule has more direct cell-killing
power than Rituxan.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Rituxan delays chemo for slow-growing lymphoma