The use of radioimmunotherapy treatment in patients with newly diagnosed follicular lymphoma has been investigated in a new study. The study looked at the effect of delivering the treatment in two fractions or doses. This approach is thought to improve the penetration of the drug within larger tumors and also helps reduce the side effects associated with a full dose treatment.

Follicular lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that usually develops slowly. The majority of patients are diagnosed when their disease is at an advanced stage. Recent improvements in treatment have included the use of antibodies to specifically target the tumor cells and to stimulate the patient’s own immune system to attack their tumor. The use of such antibodies has improved treatment response, but unfortunately, most patients still relapse.

Radioimmunotherapy, where a radioactive substance is attached to the antibody, has been shown to be successful in treating patients who had previously relapsed.

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“This was the first study to look at giving two fractions of radioimmunotherapy as an initial treatment in follicular lymphoma. We wanted to assess its safety and effectiveness in a group of high-risk patients who conventionally have done less well,” said Tim Illidge, MRCP, FRCR, FRCPath, PhD, of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.

The researchers found that that their treatment plan was feasible and safe, with very few side effects. Their study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2014; doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.50.3110).

“We saw a high overall response rate, of 94.4%, and 50 of the 72 (69.4%) patients treated in the study achieved complete response—meaning their symptoms disappeared. These results are encouraging, but we need further studies in larger numbers of patients to fully compare this treatment to the standard treatment of six to eight cycles of chemotherapy,” added Illidge.