Hundreds of lymphoma patients are set to benefit from the first chemotherapy-free treatment

Hundreds of lymphoma patients are set to benefit from the first chemotherapy-free treatment for the cancer thanks to a cutting edge drug

  • Drugs watchdog NICE approved lenalidomide, which will benefit 900 patients
  • Lenalidomide fights follicular lymphoma by halting the growth of tumours
  • Will be used alongside drug rituximab, which helps immune system kill cancers

Hundreds of people with a form of lymphoma are set to benefit from the first chemotherapy-free treatment for the disease.

Drugs watchdog NICE today approves NHS use of cutting-edge drug lenalidomide, which will benefit an estimated 900 cancer patients in England.

Trials have shown the treatment freezes the progress of the disease for more than three years.

Lenalidomide fights follicular lymphoma by halting the growth of tumours and stopping them from producing their own blood vessels.

Drugs watchdog NICE  has approved NHS use of cutting-edge drug lenalidomide (shown), which will benefit an estimated 900 cancer patients in England

Drugs watchdog NICE  has approved NHS use of cutting-edge drug lenalidomide (shown), which will benefit an estimated 900 cancer patients in England

It will be used alongside another drug, called rituximab, which sticks to cancer cells to help the immune system recognise and kill them.

As well as being the first non-chemotherapy treatment for the disease, the combination will also be used for patients who have tried chemotherapy but have become resistant to it.

Health Minister Jo Churchill said: ‘This new drug offers cancer patients treatment which is free from the gruelling side effects of chemotherapy, as well as giving fresh hope to those who have built resistance to existing medicines.

‘Revolutionary treatments such as this demonstrate how our NHS continues to push boundaries to ensure patients receive the best possible care as research develops.’

Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system, a key part of the body’s immune response.

Follicular lymphoma is a slow growing type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It forms when B-cells, the white blood cells that fight infections, become mutated.

It will be used alongside another drug, called rituximab, which sticks to cancer cells to help the immune system recognise and kill them

It will be used alongside another drug, called rituximab, which sticks to cancer cells to help the immune system recognise and kill them

The treatment is not cheap – with an average list price of £62,595 for the maximum 12-month course of the combination therapy.

The NHS, however, was offered a confidential discount by drug maker Celgene, which was deemed sufficient to take the price below the strict cost-effectiveness thresholds used by NICE.

Cancer expert Dr Kim Linton, consultant medical oncologist at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, said the news would be welcomed by doctors and patients alike.

‘There are currently limited treatment options for patients who relapse or don’t respond to therapy,’ she said.

‘This option provides a novel chemotherapy-free alternative and adds an extra line to the treatment pathway with the potential to prolong survival for our patients.’

Ropinder Gill, chief executive at the Lymphoma Action charity, added: ‘We know only too well the impact that relapsing follicular lymphoma has on people and their families, which is why there is always a need for additional treatment options that will help those who have the most limited options.

‘We are delighted that lenalidomide in combination with rituximab will be available for these patients and look forward to the reassurance that additional treatment can bring for this particular lymphoma.’

WHAT IS LYMPHOMA?

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes, which is the body’s disease-fighting network.

That network consists of the spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes and thymus gland. 

There are various types of lymphoma, but two main ones: non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s.

Both have much better prognoses than many types of cancer. 

WHAT IS HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA?

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells. It is named after Thomas Hodgkin, an English doctor who first identified the disease in 1832.  

It affects around 1,950 people each year in the UK, and 8,500 a year in the US.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most common between the ages of 20 and 24, and 75 and 79. 

Five-year survival rates:

The survival rates are much more favorable than most other cancers. 

  • Stage 1: 90%
  • Stage 2: 90%
  • Stage 3: 80%
  • Stage 4: 65% 

Symptoms include: 

  • a painless swelling in the armpits, neck and groin 
  • heavy night sweating
  • extreme weight loss 
  • itching
  • shortness of breath 
  • coughing 

Risk factors: 

  • lowered immunity
  • a family history of the condition
  • smokers 
  • those who are overweight

Treatment: 

  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy
  • steroids 
  • stem cell or bone marrow transplants

WHAT IS NON-HODKIN’S LYMPHOMA?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur anywhere in the body but is usually first noticed in the lymph nodes around sufferers’ necks.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affects around 13,700 new people every year in the UK. In the US, more than 74,600 people are diagnosed annually.

It is more common in males than females, and it is commonly diagnosed either in a patient’s early 20s or after the age of 55. 

Five-year survival rates:

Survival can vary widely with NHL. 

The general survival rate for five years is 70 percent, and the chance of living 10 years is approximately 60 percent. 

Symptoms include:

  • Painless swellings in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Heavy night sweating
  • Unexplained weight loss of more than one-tenth of a person’s body
  • Itching

Risk factors:

  • over 75
  • have a weak immune system
  • suffer from celiac disease
  • have a family history of the condition 
  • have had other types of cancer

Treatment:

It depends on the number and locations of the body affected by Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Therapy typically includes chemotherapy.

 

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