Healthy Living

This Might Be The Future of Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment

This Might Be The Future of Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment

Joe Pleasant was still in high school when he first noticed the pain. He was at a football game at his school in 2012, and it was such a little pain that he let it go. But then, just a few months later, the back pain was back with swollen lymph nodes and neurological symptoms - he knew something was terribly wrong.

After surgery and imaging tests, Joe was shocked to find out he had a tumor in his chest. Doctors told him it was about the size of a baseball, and that he had cancer. Joe was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma.

Luckily for Joe, he found a connection

When Joe told his boss about the news, he suddenly found himself talking with his boss's friend in Seattle who works at Seattle Genetics. It just so happened that the company had been working on a new drug called Adcetris, which is antibody-based immunologic medicine.

Adcetris was a new type of drug that targets a special cell marker called CD30. This is a marker that is found in most cases of Hodgkin lymphoma. Because it's so specific, it was promised to have minimal side effects. However, because it was so new, it was still in phase 3 clinical trial.

The new drug was supposed to have much fewer side effects

Joe was really interested in getting to try this drug, so he met with his cancer doctor to learn about his options. He learned that this standard treatment consisted of a cocktail of strong chemotherapy drugs including Adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine. The cocktail was often referred to as ABVD for short. Many of these drugs are extremely toxic with many side effects like lung scarring and loss of sensation.

Joe was terrified and was expecting chemotherapy to be horrible. So he asked his doctor about Adcetris. He was pleasantly surprised to find out that his oncologist was actually a colleague of the researchers at University of California, San Diego, and was involved in the Adcetris study as well. He would be giving the trial drug to patients in the area.

There were more obstacles to overcome first

There were some hoops to jump through and hurdles to overcome. The trial hadn't quite started yet, so Joe was front line and center waiting for it to happen. With some effort and administrative tweaking, they were able to launch the trial a little early so Joe could get this new drug.

The clinical trial replaced one of the drugs with Adcetris

In this trial, called the ECHELON-1 trial, the bleomycin in ABVD is replaced with Adcetris. It was a randomized controlled trial, meaning Joe nor his doctor knew whether they were going to get the standard ABVD treatment or the new one with Adcetris. Unfortunately, they were forced to play this coin toss for even a chance at getting this new drug.

Read on to learn more about this clinical trial and other approaches to Hodgkin lymphoma.

Photo: Cure Magazine