Monday, May 31, 2010

Cool new treatment for NHL

So I've been reading a lot and talking to doctors about treatment for and what non-Hodgkin's lymphoma actually is, and if you're unfamiliar, NHL (that's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, not National Hockey League, in case you were confused. And if you were looking for the latter, this is not the right site you want to go to. But I digress...) is a cancer that starts in the lymph nodes. Our lymph nodes are part of the system of our bodies that fights off diseases. With non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, some white blood cells we have called lymphocytes start to produce tumors, and those tumors are cancerous.

Side note: the National Cancer Instituate says 66,000 Americans will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma THIS YEAR. Can you believe that? That's a lot of people.

Anyway, the standard treatment for NHL is chemotherapy, immune-boosting meds, radiation, drugs, stem cell transplants, etc. Pretty normal for any kind of aggressive cancer. This kind of treatment normally leaves the patient pretty sick afterward because the chemo kills lots of good cells along with the cancer cells. In the long run though, it usually helps.

But today I read about a new option in treatment. Apparently researchers have been experimenting with a new kind of treatment that "links a powerful chemotherapy called mono-auristatin with an antibody called SGN-35. The antibody directs the drug directly to a protein on the surface of lymphoma cells and leaves healthy cells alone."

This is great! I've already told Lucy, my sister who's suffering from NHL, to look into this option and talk to her doctor about it. It's still really new, but any new research is good to ask about, methinks. And if she can end up using this kind of treatment, she won't feel all crappy after her chemo because her good white blood cells will still be around.

Oh, and here's one patient's story who underwent this type of therapy: "Steven Guarin was the very first patient in the U.S. who took part in the phase II clinical trial testing the SGN-35 therapy. Within 36 hours of receiving the treatment, Steven’s tumors disappeared. After four cycles, he was in complete remission. However, Steven passed away after opting for another experimental procedure. In an effort to prolong his remission, he had a cord blood transplant. Unfortunately, the toxicity of the transplant caused his death. Steven’s family says he would have wanted to share his story."

So some good and bad parts to that guy's story, but I think the first part really sounds promising.