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How This Drug Could Become the Standard for Mantle Cell Lymphoma

How This Drug Could Become the Standard for Mantle Cell Lymphoma

How This Drug Could Become the Standard for Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Pharmaceutical companies are constantly churning out new medicines for a host of different diseases. Every year there is some new drug claiming to completely change how a disease is treated. These drugs have to go through an extensive screening process by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but those that fill a desperately needed niche may not be subject to as much scrutiny (this is referred to as Accelerated Approval).

Researchers released a new study that finds that the drug rituximab (Rituxan) may be able to help mantle cell lymphoma patients extend their life after treatment. While Rituxan has been used to treat many different type of cancers before, this is the first-time doctors are recommending it to their mantle cell lymphoma patients, specifically for after they undergo stem cell transplants.

We're going to take a look at this drug and tell you what it does and why it may change the way we treat mantle cell lymphoma.

Why only mantle cell lymphoma?

Before we look at Rituxan, it needs to be said that this drug will likely not be used on a majority of lymphoma patients. This is because the study itself focused on a specific type of lymphoma called mantle cell lymphoma. This is a subtype of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that mainly affects men over the age of 60. About 5 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients have this subtype. It is called mantle cell lymphoma because the tumors typically originate from the mantle portion of the lymphocytes or white blood cells (usually the outer ring of the cell).

There are a couple of things that set mantle cell lymphoma apart from other NHL varieties. The first is that in mantle cell lymphoma there tends to be an overproduction of a protein called Cyclin D1. This is found in over 90 percent of MCL patients. In around half of MCL patients there are higher than normal levels of certain proteins circulating in the blood, such as lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and beta-2 microglobulin. These proteins can affect how aggressive the cancer is and often guides the doctors in developing a treatment plan.

Unfortunately, this form of cancer is incurable. Stem cell transplants have been traditionally used to prolong the life of MCL patients, but typically most patients see the cancer come back after only a few years.

More about the drug

Rituxan is a drug that is used to treat a wide variety of cancers. It releases antibodies into the bloodstream that target and destroy the cells caused by MCL. Rituxan can also boost the immune system so that the body's own white blood cells can be better equipped to tackle the cancer cells. Rituxan was originally quite successful at destroying cancer cells, but it did have its drawbacks. Rituxan has some side effects that anyone taking it should keep in mind.Read on to learn more about what they are and exactly why Rituxan is good for patients living with mantle cell lymphoma.