Researchers tested a new drug used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma, and found that if it was given immediately after a stem cell transplant, it makes the patients survive without the disease progressing for twice as long as those given placebo helped them.
The findings of a phase 3 trial of brentuximab vedotin (BV), the first new drug for Hodgkin lymphoma in over 30 years, are potentially practice changing for this young cancer population who have exhausted other treatment options and for whom prognosis is poor.
Lead author Professor Craig Moskowitz said that no medication available today has had such dramatic results in patients with hard-to-treat Hodgkin lymphoma, which is the most common blood cancer in young adults aged between 15 and 35 years.
In the AETHERA phase 3 trial, Moskowitz and colleagues aimed to establish whether early treatment with BV after ASCT could prevent disease progression. They randomly assigned 329 patients with Hodgkin lymphoma aged 18 or older who were at high risk of relapse or progression after ASCT to 16 cycles of BV infusions once every 3 weeks or placebo.
At 2 years follow up, the cancer had not progressed at all in 65 percent of BV patients compared with 45 percent in the placebo group.
BV was generally well tolerated. The most common side effects were peripheral neuropathy (numbness or pain in the extremities due to nerve damage) and neutropenia (low white blood count).
The study is published in The Lancet.