According to a story from Everyday Health, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has recently approved a new drug for the treatment of recently diagnosed patients with Hodgkin disease. The approval is the first time in around forty years that a new treatment for the disease has become accessible to the public.
Hodgkin’s disease, also referred to as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is a cancer of the white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Many people with Hodgkin’s disease are diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age. Some risk factors for this lymphoma include family history, infection with the HIV/AIDS virus, and the Epstein-Barr virus. Symptoms of Hodgkin’s disease include swollen lymph nodes, itching, night sweats, enlargement of the liver/spleen, fever, red patches of skin that bleed easily, and weight loss. In its early stages, the lymphoma can often be cured completely. Generally, this cancer has relatively long-term survival rates, and the five year rate stands at 86 percent in the U.S. To learn more about Hodgkin’s disease, click here.
Overall treatment options for Hodgkin’s are effective and safe, but there is always room for improvement. The new drug, brentuximab vedotin (brand name Adcetris), is approved as part of a combination treatment with a chemotherapy course called AVD. In the past people with this disease are often treated with AVD in combination with bleomycin, another chemotherapy drug that can have toxic effects in some patients. With this in mind, Adcetris represents a step forward primarily because it reduces the possibility of harmful side effects for the patient while still remaining effective against the cancer itself. Bleomycin also remains ineffective in about a quarter of patients that try it, and it is known to cause lung complications.
Adcetris achieves its improvement in safety for patients because it is a targeted therapy. While chemotherapy drugs can be aggressive against cancer cells, also have undesirable effects on the rest of the body. Adcetris is a antibody and drug combination in which the antibody transports the drug directly to the cancer cells without damaging any of the body’s normal cells.
While many Hodgkin’s disease patients can already expect long term survival with currently available treatments, Adcetris makes that survival all the more worthwhile by reducing the bodily harm that can come from long term cancer treatment. While it does have side effects, they are generally not severe, can often be preventable, and tend to improve over time.