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  • A major advance treatment of rare and debilitating cancer

    Author: AAP

An Australian-led trial has shown a new drug works in almost five times as many patients compared to standard therapy for a rare skin-related cancer.

Researchers are celebrating a major advance in the treatment of a rare and debilitating cancer that affects the skin.

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An Australian-led clinical trial, published in The Lancet, has shown a new drug works in almost five times as many patients and its benefits last longer compared to the current therapy for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

The hard-to-treat cancer of lymphocytes, or white blood cells, causes debilitating and worsening skin problems, typically red, scaly patches or thickened plaques of skin that mimic eczema or chronic dermatitis.

There is currently no cure.

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However, Professor Miles Prince, trial leader and specialist haematologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, hopes the "impressive" trial of drug brentuximab vedotin will lead to a fast-tracking of its approval for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Brenuximab vedotin is already approved for use in other lymphomas including the more common Hodgkins lymphoma.

About 130 patients across 52 international trial sites, including at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, were enrolled in the drug trial and randomly assigned into groups treated with either brentuximab vedotin or standard therapy.

More than half, 56.3 per cent, of those treated with brentuximab vedotin went on to show a beneficial response lasting four months or more.

This was compared to 12.5 per cent for patients who received a standard therapy.

Longer-term follow-up also showed a major improvement in the length of time a patients condition remained stable post treatment - at 16.7 months for patients treated with the new drug compared to 3.5 months for standard therapy.

Overall, there were 16 deaths in the brentuximab vedotin group and 14 deaths in the standard therapy group, after a median follow-up of almost two years (22.9 months).

"These impressive results point to a new and more effective treatment option for these patients, whom standard therapies have to date offered only unreliable or short-term benefits," said Professor Prince.

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