An experimental drug designed to treat Hodgkin's Lymphoma offers new hopes for young cancer patients suffering from this aggressive blood cancer condition.
In a recent trial, among the patients who took the immunotherapy drug called nivolumab, 66.3 percent were able to show "considerable" reductions in their cancer tumors. In the eight months that followed, they also remained free of symptoms.
These patients who took part in the clinical trial failed to respond to previous treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma.
They also failed to respond to the attempts in "rebooting" their immune systems — a process that included the transplantation of stem cells procured from their own bone marrow.
Following the success of the Phase I trial, 80 patients moved on to take part in Phase II trial. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 72 years old.
"Nivolumab is now offering real promise in this disease. The hope is that this will translate into longer survival in more patients than has been possible to date," said Dr. Graham Collins, who is part of the clinical trial team.
Approximately 2,000 people in the United Kingdom receive a diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, many of whom are in their 20s and 30s, added Collins, who is also a consultant hematologist at the Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust.
When a patient's cancer continues to progress despite getting the available treatments, very little can be done after that point. Collins added that for the first time, an immunotherapy treatment is showing considerable reductions in cancer tumors in the majority of patients in a very sick group.
The trial results were presented at the European Haematology Association's annual meeting in Denmark on June 9 to 12. The findings are due to be released in the The Lancet Oncology journal.
"It is vital that innovative treatments are being developed and made available to lymphoma patients," said Lymphoma Association chief executive Jonathan Pearce, adding that the more options there are to help improve the patient's quality of life and outcomes, the better.
Hodgkin's Lymphoma starts in the body's lymph system and attacks the B-lymphocytes, which are the blood cells in the immune system.
According to the American Cancer Society, both children and adults can develop this type of blood cancer. However, the occurrence rates are higher during early adulthood, especially during the 20s. In the United States, there are about 8,500 new cases of Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2016, wherein approximately 120 patients have died.