New treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma doubles progression free survival

19 Mar 2015

The findings of a phase 3 trial of brentuximab vedotin (BV) showed that adults with hard-to-treat Hodgkin lymphoma given BV immediately after stem cell transplant survived without the disease progressing for twice as long as those given placebo.

Brentuximab vedotin is an antibody attached to a powerful chemotherapy drug that seeks out cancer cells by targeting the CD30 protein on Hodgkin lymphoma cells. BV sticks to the CD30 protein and delivers chemotherapy directly into the cancer cell to kill it. Recently, BV has been approved for relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma in 50 countries. BV is the first new drug for Hodgkin lymphoma in over 30 years.

Study planning

In the AETHERA phase 3 trial, Craig Moskowitz, a Professor of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA and colleagues aimed to establish whether early treatment with BV after autologous stem cell transplant (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% of BV patients compared with 45% in the placebo group. "Nearly all of these patients who are progression free at 2 years are likely to be cured since relapse 2 years after a transplant is unlikely", explains Dr Moskowitz.

A new practice-changing treatment with well tolerated side effects

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 findings are potentially practice-changing for this young cancer population who have exhausted other treatment options and for whom prognosis is poor.

"No medication available today has had such dramatic results in patients with hard-to-treat Hodgkin lymphoma", commented the lead author. Furthermore, he added that "the bottom line is that BV is a very effective drug in poor risk Hodgkin lymphoma and it spares patients from the harmful effects of further traditional chemotherapy by breaking down inside the cell resulting in less toxicity."

Source: Science Daily

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