New Immunotherapy Drug Approved By FDA To Treat Hodgkin Lymphoma

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Hodgkin lymphoma patients whose disease has come back after standard treatments can now use a new immunotherapy drug approved by the FDA.

In a recent clinical trial, nearly two-thirds of the patients responded positively to the immunotherapy drug nivolumab. The new drug blocks the molecule PD-1, and it’s the first immunotherapy of its kind to be approved for Hodgkin lymphoma.

Nivolumab works to inhibit the actions of the molecule PD-1 on the surface of immune cells, which then enables a patient’s immune system to intensify its attack against cancerous cells. The details of the clinical trial - published in Lancet Oncology - also noted that nivolumab has already proven to be an effective treatment against melanoma, lung cancer and kidney cancer.

Reasons for optimism

While past research has noted that Hodgkin lymphoma is often curable with standard treatments, few alternatives and difficult odds often face those who don’t respond to these therapies. Researchers believe that patients will now have a better outlook after observing the success of nivolumab during the clinical trial.

“This is great news for Hodgkin lymphoma patients and for the advancement of immunotherapies in blood cancers,” said Alexander Lesokhin, who played a pivotal role during the clinical testing of nivolumab. “This is a wonderful milestone that helps validate our ongoing efforts to develop the next generation of immunotherapy treatments.”

During the trial, 95 patients whose cancer had returned after receiving the current treatment brentuximab vedotin were given nivolumab. Sixty-five percent of the participants showed complete or partial remission of their cancer after being treated with the new drug.

Researchers are now hoping to discover if a combination of both brentuximab vedotin and nivolumab can work in unison to treat patients with Hodgkin lymphoma.

“After decades with no new treatments, we now have two highly active drugs that may be combinable — that’s why everyone in the field is getting excited,” said Dr. Anas Younes, lead author of the study. “It could become the building block for new treatment strategies for patients with this disease.”

Source: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

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