A drug developed 50 years ago has reemerged as a new weapon in the fight against certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphomas, more than doubling progression-free survival rates and reducing side effects compared to a multi-drug cocktail that for years has been used to treat indolent non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
The drug, bendamustine (Treanda), showed promising results when combined with another therapy, rituximab (Rituxan). Traditionally, the disease has been treated with a combination of five different drugs – rituximab, cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), doxorubicin (Adriamycin), vincristine, and prednisone – called R-CHOP. Findings on bendamustine were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.
Bendamustine was developed in the 1960s in East Germany but was cast aside for decades before being rediscovered in recent years. West Germans didn’t even learn about the drug’s existence until after the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, and even then the West Germans needed proof to actually believe its merit.
The latest study on bendamustine-plus-rituximab versus R-CHOP involved 514 patients with indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma who underwent six cycles of one of the treatments. After four years, progression-free survival for those on the bendamustine compound was 69.5 months compared to 31.2 on the five-drug cocktail. Patients on the bendamustine treatment also experienced less toxicity and infections than patients on R-CHOP.
In the United States, the bendamustine therapy is preferred among oncologists for the treatment for patients with indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Doctors say the study reinforces this treatment as a first-line defense for the disease.