Veltuzumab Appears no Better (or Worse) than Rival Rituximab

Research* in the Journal of Clinical Oncology is declaring the humanized anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody drug veltuzumab to be "safe " for patients with relapsed/refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Veltuzumab was tested in 82 patients with Stage III or IV NHL (most had follicular lymphoma, some had marginal zone lymphoma or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma) whose cancer had recurred after chemotherapy that included rituximab. Patients received a weekly intravenous infusion of veltuzumab for four weeks. You can read the results in the study's published abstract.

Veltuzumab, made by Immunomedics, Inc., is what's known as a "'Me too" drug. Following on the heels of any wildly successful drug, rival pharmaceutical companies desperately want in on the action. They can't ape the drug formula (i.e structure) because it's protected by patent, but they can synthesize drugs to do the exact same thing as the successful drug. Doesn't mean the newer drugs do it any better than the first one.

All this should be evident by how this study goes out of its way to take a shot at rituximab. After all, it would appear as though patients qualified for the study if they had previously been given rituximab and their cancer had relapsed—nevermind precisely what kind of NHL they had, or what kind of chemotherapy regimen they had, details one would expect to be uniform in a controlled, scientific study—the important thing was that rituximab failed.

The researchers' lethargic conclusion takes a parting shot at rituximab: "Veltuzumab appeared safe and active at all tested doses, encouraging further study, including dose levels less than those typically used with rituximab".

The conclusion is also unsettling because it's utterly ludicrous to suggest that any cancer treatment drug might be safe after just four lousy weeks of exposure. Who in the hell are they kidding?

*Morschhauser F, Leonard JP, Fayad L, et al. Humanized anti-CD20 antibody, veltuzumab, in refractory/recurrent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Phase I/II results. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2009; 27: 3346-3353

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