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New Strategy Helps Young Lymphoma Patients

Approach resulted in high remission rates without the risks tied to radiotherapy, researchers say
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- A new treatment approach may mean that young people with a form of lymphoma can go without radiation therapy, sparing them side effects or raised cancer risks down the road.

In a trial conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, nearly all patients with a form of cancer known as primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma who received chemotherapy, but did not undergo chest radiation, achieved a full remission.

Standard treatment for this cancer typically includes radiation to the chest, the study authors pointed out, but this has been linked to significant harmful effects in the future, particularly for women.

"These results are exciting and demonstrate that, using this approach, almost all patients appear to be cured and very few patients require radiation," study co-author Dr. Kieron Dunleavy, of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, said in an agency news release.

One expert not connected to the study agreed.

"This study is a significant achievement in improving the care of a group of lymphoma patients that urgently need it: young patients with an aggressive and -- if left untreated -- rapidly lethal disease," said Dr. Joshua Brody, assistant professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

The study "yielded very exciting success rates with almost all patients going into complete remission even without the use of radiation therapy, which is frequently used for this disease," Brody added. All of the patients in the study maintained remission "for a long time," he noted, and "most of the patients are certainly cured of their disease."

The study is published in the April 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma usually affects people in their teens to early 30s. Although many people with the disease who are treated with both chemotherapy and radiation do achieve a cure, roughly 20 percent do not, according to an NCI news release.

The research team noted that radiation to the chest area could also boost a patient's risk for other types of cancer down the road, including breast cancer, as well as cause damage to the heart. Complicating matters, as young people age, their risk for heart disease and new forms of cancer also rises.

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