New Hope For Lymphoma Patients

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 9:02am

Drug being tested shows great promise in early trials.

A newly approved drug for lymphoma recently brought two people together for the first time - the doctor who helped design it 20 years ago and a patient whose life is being saved right now at University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"I don't have fevers. I don't have tumors, actually tumors in my body. I don't feel lumps anymore," said 30-year-old Archie McNeal.

One of McNealy's scans in January showed many tumors all over his body.

That was before he started the new treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"After seven or eight treatments, we barely saw any evidence of malignancy," said his oncologist Dr. Joseph Rosenblatt, interim director of the cancer center.

Another scan highlights a yellow circle, which was a tumor under McNealy's arm. By July, it was gone.

"To be able to do that and have this kind of success with a drug whose origin is actually in research done in tumor immunology at this center was a particularly wonderful experience," Rosenblatt said.

Dr. Eckhard Podack is in charge of immunology research at UM/Sylvester.

He was the one who developed an antibody in 1992 that targets a protein found on specific cancer cells.

"This molecule is present in Hodgkin's lymphoma and a few other lymphomas," Podack explained.

Seattle Genetics combined it with a powerful chemotherapy agent that the antibody delivers directly to the cancer cells.

The FDA approved Adcetris on August 19 for patients who have failed standard therapies.

McNealy had tried numerous other treatments before and says "this is the first one that has brought me as close to remission as possible so I'm happy."

Doctors are hoping to start clinical trials to test how this drug responds earlier in the disease process.

The cost per dose is between $9,000 and $13,000 for patients not in the trials.

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