Chemo Pill Shows Promise for Advanced Lymphoma

Wilmot Oncologist Leads Study of Next Therapy for Stubborn Disease

July 15, 2008

A new chemotherapy pill for people with stubborn lymphomas is showing promise in early clinical studies, according to scientists at the University of Rochester’s James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. Doctors reported that the drug is halting disease in nearly half of the patients with two forms of lymphoma participating in early clinical trials in Rochester and across the country.

Scientists and oncologists are interested in the investigative drug, fostamatinib disodium, because it targets a common protein in normal B cells – white blood cells that fight infection -- and lymphoma cells. The drug inhibits the activity of this protein, called SYK, and spurs cellular death. Jonathan Friedberg, M.D., director of hematological malignancies clinical research shared results of Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials at the prestigious International Conference on Malignant Lymphoma in Switzerland.

In the Phase 2 study, doctors followed 53 patients with varying forms of recurrent lymphoma for more than seven months of treatment. The patients were 43 to 87 years old and had received numerous therapies to treat their disease previously. Preliminary results, after two months of treatment, showed 44 percent of the patients had positive responses to the new therapy

There are many forms of lymphoma and this new, twice-a-day pill offers patients with recurrent disease – small lymphocytic lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma -- another option as they progress through various treatments for the resistant disease.

“We’re seeing signs of success with this new drug in some forms of lymphoma,” Friedberg said. He said that if there is widespread success in additional studies, this drug, in combination with other therapies might be a good “one-two punch” for lymphomas.

Friedberg led the studies at the Wilmot Cancer Center, providing local people with lymphoma access to this novel therapy first in the United States. He will lead additional clinical studies at the Wilmot Cancer Center and other sites around the country.

Lymphomas are diagnosed in about 66,000 people each year in the United States. It is the fifth most common cancer, excluding skin cancers.

Although some types of lymphoma are more common in children, it is largely a disease of aging adults. The average age at diagnosis is in the 60s and around half of patients are older than 65. The risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma increases throughout life, and the elderly have the highest risk. The aging of the American population is likely to lead to an increase in non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases during the coming years.


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