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Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

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New Treatments for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

The rate of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has nearly doubled since the 1970s, but advances in treatments are offering new hope.

Radioimmunotherapy: Raising the Odds of Remission continued...

As with Rituxan, the FDA approved two radioimmunotherapy agents for treatment of relapsed or resistant follicular lymphoma:

  • Zevalin
  • Bexxar

Some oncologists believe radioimmunotherapy drugs hold even more promise than Rituxan. One 2002 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that 30% of the patients using Zevalin had a complete remission of their disease with no trace of the cancer present, compared with only 16% of those taking Rituxan.

After a complete response, lymphoma is more likely to stay under control longer.

And the less often chemotherapy is used to control lymphoma, the better, says Gregory. "More chemotherapy treatments can actually damage the bone marrow," causing long-term complications.

"Think of conventional chemotherapy as a gun with six bullets in it," says O'Connor. "If we spread out the time between treatments, you can save those bullets for a rainy day."

Each treatment for Rituxan and the radioimmunotherapies is complete in one to two weeks. There is no hair loss, nausea, or vomiting, although the radioimmunotherapies often cause a drop in blood counts.

More NHL Treatments Ahead

"There are over 180 drugs in the pipeline" for treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, says O'Connor. Learning which of those drugs work best, and integrating the winners into current practice, will take decades. It's a gradual process.

But for Laura Colton Tepper and thousands of other patients, the new options available today have already changed the course of their cancers. And research into future treatments promises hope where once they had none.

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