The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has recommended a new ‘chemotherapy-free’ treatment option for patients with previously treated follicular lymphoma (grade 1 to 3A).
The new drug, lenalidomide (Revlimid) by Celgene, which fights cancer cells in a different way to current treatments, has been recommended for use with rituximab (MabThera), an anti-CD20 antibody that sticks to cancer cells to help the immune system recognise and kill them.
Lenalidomide interferes with cell processes to halt the growth of tumours, stopping them from producing their own blood vessels.
Rituximab is often used alongside chemotherapy as the standard treatment for follicular lymphoma.
Jo Churchill, health minister, said: “This new drug offers cancer patients treatment which is free from the gruelling side effects of chemotherapy, as well as giving fresh hope to those who have built resistance to existing medicines.
“Revolutionary treatments such as this demonstrate how our NHS continues to push boundaries to ensure patients receive the best possible care as research develops,” she said.
Clinical evidence suggests that taking lenalidomide with rituximab increases the length of time before the disease progresses by around 39.4 months, compared to around 13.8 months when taking rituximab alone.
Meindert Boysen, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE, said: “The use of lenalidomide with rituximab is more toxic to cancer cells than the singular use of either drug. Importantly, patients have also been seen to overcome previous resistance to rituximab when it’s taken with lenalidomide”.
Around 900 people are expected to be eligible for the treatment.