A phase 3 trial of brentuximab vedotin (BV), the first new drug for Hodgkin lymphoma in over 30 years, shows that adults with hard-to-treat Hodgkin lymphoma who are given BV immediately after stem cell transplant survived without the disease progressing for almost twice as long as those given placebo (43 months versus 24 months). The findings, published online on March 18, 2015 in The Lancet, are potentially practice-changing for this young cancer population that has exhausted other treatment options and for which prognosis is poor. "No medication available today has had such dramatic results in patients with hard-to-treat Hodgkin lymphoma," says lead author Dr. Craig Moskowitz, a Professor of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA. Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common blood cancer in young adults aged between 15 and 35 years. Most patients are cured with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. However, for patients who relapse, or do not respond to initial therapy, the treatment of choice is usually a combination of high-dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT)--a procedure that uses healthy stem cells from the patient to replace those lost to disease or chemotherapy. While about 50% of patients who undergo this procedure are cured, for the other half, treatment is only palliative.
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