Follow-up Therapy Shown to Improve Lymphoma Survival Rates

Antibody therapy for two years following standard care appears to improve survival in lymphoma patients

January 28, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Follicular lymphoma patients fare better after receiving two years of rituximab-maintenance therapy following immunochemotherapy, according to a new study.

A slow-growing, common form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, follicular lymphoma (a type of cancer that involves the lymphatic system) usually responds well to treatment, although relapse is common. The monoclonal antibody rituximab has proven effective as a therapy, but rituximab in combination with chemotherapy has improved survival rates and thus become standard in the first-line of treatment for follicular lymphoma.

The possible benefit of continuing rituximab treatment after completing chemotherapy was not known, however, prompting a new study.

In the study, 72 percent of patients who received rituximab therapy for two years following chemotherapy achieved complete or unconfirmed complete response compared with 52 percent in the observation group, who did not continue to ritumixab therapy for two years following chemotherapy.

The study followed 1217 patients in all with previously untreated follicular lymphoma who were given an initial treatment of rituximab plus chemotherapy.

The study authors write that continued rituximab therapy following chemotherapy in patients with high tumour burden follicular lymphoma, who respond to initial treatment, should now be considered as first-line treatment.

Mild to moderate infections occurred in 39 percent of patients taking rituximab compared with only 24 percent in the observation group, however.

Researcher Jonathan Friedberg of the University of Rochester cautioned longer-term follow-up is needed to determine safety and resistance before rituximab-maintenance therapy is routinely offered to all patients with follicular lymphoma.