Paris: A large-scale trial of a new drug shows it boosts survival chances for Hodgkin`s lymphoma, a cancer of the blood that mostly strikes younger people, a study said Thursday.
Known by the lab name of brentuximab vedotin (BV), the drug is the first new treatment for Hodgkin`s in more than three decades.
Hodgkin`s lymphoma is the commonest blood cancer among people aged 15 to 35.
Most patients respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. For those who do not, the alternative is usually a combination of high-dose chemotherapy and a transplant of healthy stem cells.
But only about one in two who undergo this procedure are cured.
Doctors reporting in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology tested the drug among 329 cancer patients who were at high risk of relapse after stem-cell transplant.
Two years later, the cancer had not progressed in 65 percent of patients who had taken BV. The two-year marker is considered a strong indicator of a cure.
"No medication available today has had such dramatic results" on hard-to-treat Hodgkin`s, said Craig Moskowitz of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who led the study.
The research was a Phase III trial, usually the last step in the exhaustive process to vet an experimental drug for safety and efficacy.
The results were unveiled at a conference in November 2014, prior to publication in the peer-reviewed journal.
BV, marketed as Adcetris, was administered to 165 volunteers, who received 16 cycles of the drug every three weeks, starting about a month after they had received the stem cell infusion.
The remaining 164 received a dummy treatment, called a placebo. In this group, 45 percent of patients did not suffer a relapse or cancer progression at the two-year follow-up point.
In a comment, cancer expert Andreas Engert from Germany`s University Hospital of Cologne, said further work was needed to identify high-risk patients who would benefit most from the drug.