Taking on a lethal blood cancer

From San Diego, at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is mainly a malignancy of antibody-making immune cells called B lymphocytes. While drugs have helped many patients fend off some forms of this cancer, an aggressive form known as mantle-cell lymphoma often recurs after chemotherapy. This lymphoma arises from B cells that form a mantle around the inner core of lymph nodes.

Researchers now report that a drug called bortezomib, already approved for use against the bone marrow cancer multiple myeloma, helped patients with mantle-cell lymphoma who had failed to improve on three previous treatment regimens. Of 26 patients receiving infusions of bortezomib, 14 had a complete remission that, in some, lasted more than a year, says Owen A. O’Connor of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Nine others saw their disease stabilize during the months following treatment, and the cancer progressed in three people.

Bortezomib is called Velcade by its maker Millennium Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge, Mass.

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