From: Reuters
Published March 10, 2008 04:05 PM

Non-Hodgkin's cancer patients living longer: study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Improved treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma helped patients live longer in the United States, researchers said on Monday.

In particular, the targeted drug Rituxan, in combination with chemotherapy, has helped younger patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which occurs in roughly 20 of 100,000 people, they found.

Two-thirds of patients diagnosed between 2002 and 2004 will survive at least five years, compared to half of patients diagnosed between 1990 and 1992, according to the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Ten-year survival rates were projected to rise to 56 percent in patients diagnosed from 2002 to 2004, up from 39 percent in 1990-1992, the researchers found.

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"Improvements were most pronounced in patients younger than 45 years, but improvements were seen in all age groups," wrote Dr. Dianne Pulte and colleagues at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, who analyzed data on nearly 86,000 patients from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

The disease attacks the lymph nodes, spleen and other organs responsible for the body's immune system.

A key weapon against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the antibody therapy rituximab, sold by Genentech Inc. under the brand name Rituxan and by Roche AG in Europe as MabThera, which interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Rituxan was approved in 1997 and was the first cancer drug to use antibodies to specifically target tumors.

"Treatment with antibody therapy and chemotherapy has extended life expectancy in many cases, but whether and how often this extension represents a true cure is still unknown," Pulte wrote.

Some cancer treatments can slow the progression of the disease but do not end up helping patients live any longer.

(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Maggie Fox and Jackie Frank)

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