New NHL treatment available

A new treatment for low-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) could benefit thousands of UK patients.

The release of Napp Pharmaceutical’s Levact (bendamustine) has been described as a “significant step” by experts, after being approved for a licence in the UK.

Napp said the drug will offer a new life-line to hundreds of patients who have failed to respond to other licensed treatments.

Levact has also won approval as a first-line treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia in patients unable to take fludarabine combination therapy, as well as a front-line treatment for patients with neuropathy due to multiple myeloma who are not suitable for transplant.

NHL affects around 10,000 people in the UK every year, with only 50% of patients surviving for five years after diagnosis. Levact is a new chemotherapy agent which Napp says has a unique mode of action, combining the properties of two different types of chemotherapy. Alkylating agents and Purine analogues offer a multi-pronged attack on cancer, which also makes treatment resistance less likely.

Its introduction has been welcomed by healthcare professionals. “Bendamustine is a useful addition to our armamentarium in the management of indolent lymphomas, showing effectiveness in patients where the disease has relapsed or has been resistant to other treatments,” said Dr Andrew Davies, Southampton General Hospital.

The licence was awarded following a successful clinical trial programme to treat patients with indolent NHL whose disease has progressed within six months after treatment with the commonly used agent MabThera (rituximab).

Since November 2008 more than 450 patients have had access to Levact under a compassionate use programme.