Healthy Living

FDA-Approved Adcetris for Lymphoma Patients

FDA-Approved Adcetris for Lymphoma Patients

FDA-Approved Adcetris for Lymphoma Patients

Lymphoma is the most commonly occurring blood cancer, and develops when cells of the immune system become cancerous and grow uncontrollably. Cells that are part of the immune system are called lymphocytes, also known as white blood cells, which can travel throughout the body and grow into cancerous tumors. These cancerous cells, called lymphomas, can originate in either of the two primary immune system cells: B-cells or T-cells.

T-cell lymphomas come in many different subcategories, some of which are extremely rare. While each manifestation comes with its own set of treatment options and prognosis, they tend to be split into two broader groups. A T-cell lymphoma can be either aggressive and fast-growing, or indolent and slow-growing. The speed at which a cancer grows indicates how likely it is to spread to other parts of the body, which in turn affects a doctor’s decision to either treat locally at the tumor site, or systematically throughout the entire body.

The most common form of T-cell lymphoma is cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, abbreviated as CTCL, and it is a general designation for lymphomas that affect the skin. A person is usually alerted to CTCL when their skin becomes dry and severely itchy, with the development of a red rash and enlarged lymph nodes. Once tested, the cancer can be found in the blood, lymph nodes, and other internal organs.

New treatment option for those with CTCL

The FDA has recently approved a new medicine for the treatment of common types of CTCL, provided that the patient has already received one systemic therapy. The drug is called Adcetris, with the scientific name brentuximab vedotin, and was developed by Seattle Genetics along with codeveloper Takeda. The FDA approved the drug a full month ahead of schedule, and the medicine is currently being heralded as a “significant milestone for the lymphoma community.”

The medicine is specifically marketed towards those with the two most common subtypes of CTCL: primary acute anaplastic large cell lymphoma (pcALCL) and CD30-expressing mycosis fungoides (MF). Patients who are diagnosed with these specific markers in their blood will know their type. Half of all CTCL lymphomas are MF, and both variations of the underlying disease have clear symptoms that can alert doctors to the possibility of their presence.

MF is by far the more common of the two subtypes of CTCL lymphoma, and is characterized by patches of skin that can appear flat and scaly, as well as by thick red plaques or itchy lesions. A biopsy of the skin can reveal whether or not these skin symptoms are attributed to CTCL or if they are simply skin complications which can be treated with ointments or antibiotics. A biopsy will not always find cancer; the disease can be difficult to diagnose until cancer becomes prevalent enough in the skin to be attributed to the lymphoma.

Primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma is a rarer subset of CTCL that is identified by a mutation in the size and shape of cells, and also by the uniform expression of a gene unique to lymphocytes called CD30. These characteristics can only be seen under a microscope and through rigorous testing. There are some common physical presentations of the cancer, including lesions and bumps that may ulcerate and itch. This particular subset is typically slow-growing, and almost always affects the skin without spreading to other organs.

Read on to learn more about Adcetris.