When Hodgkin Lymphoma returns, a new drug may offer hope

August 16, 2016 | by Letisia Marquez

Patients whose Hodgkin lymphoma has returned after a stem cell transplant have few treatment options available, but a new drug tested at City of Hope may change that.

ABC-7 in Los Angeles featured research by Robert Chen, M.D., assistant professor with City of Hope’s Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, on the use of the new medication – brentuximab vedotin (BV) – by these patients and how they were doing after five years.

The news segment recounted the story of Lowell Winer, a 45-year-old who lives in Venice, California. For four years, he underwent chemotherapy and two autologous stem cell transplants, but the cancer returned.

"He did well for about a year, and the cancer came back," Auayporn Nademanee, M.D., the Jan & Mace Siegel Professor in Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation who treated Winer at City of Hope, told ABC-7. “This is not unusual."

Winer took part in the BV study, and his cancer finally went into remission.

“Had it not been for this new drug, I may not be alive today,” said Winer, who is studying to receive a master’s degree in psychotherapy so he can help others with life-threatening diseases. “I am so grateful this research was done on this population of Hodgkin lymphoma patients for which current drugs are not working.”

BV is a cancer-killing agent that targets a specific protein on the surface of the cancer cells, Chen told ABC-7. The side effects can be significantly less severe than traditional chemotherapy, with no hair loss or nausea.

Chen led the study that was recently published in the journal, Blood. At five years, 34 of the 102 patients had achieved a complete response, or disappearance of their cancer for a period of time. 

Of these 34 patients, 13 (or 38 percent) have remained in remission for five years. An additional two patients, whose disease did not progress after BV, went on to achieve remission after receiving an allogeneic stem cell transplant (in which healthy stem cells are taken from a donor and administered to the patient). 

“For a patient population that typically only sees an overall survival of one to two years after relapse from autologous stem cell transplantation, the fact that we can report such durable results after five years is incredible,” Chen said. 

Referencing the 15 patients still in remission at the close of the longitudinal study, Chen said, “Each day that these individuals continue to spend with their loved ones is a testament to the strides our community is making in understanding and beating treatment-resistant lymphomas.”

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Learn more about City of Hope's lymphoma program. If you are looking for a second opinion or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

 

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