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Research Roundup

Bexxar effective as first-line treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

A radioactive antibody compound known as Bexxar produced tumor shrinkage in 97 percent of 76 previously untreated patients with advanced-stage, low-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in a new study at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Most notably, 76 percent of patients achieved a complete remission, with no sign of cancer. In addition, 84 percent of patients with evidence of lymphoma at the molecular level at the start of the trial achieved molecular remission for as long as three years with the treatment. Molecular remissions were determined by rigorous use of polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, technology, arguably the most sensitive cancer detection method available today.

"Molecular remissions are seldom seen with chemotherapy in low-grade lymphoma, and appear to coincide with prolonged, durable responses," says lead researcher Mark S. Kaminski, M.D., professor of hematology/ oncology and co-director of the U-M's leukemia/lymphoma-BMT program. "Furthermore, these results demonstrate the potential of this treatment as an effective and well-tolerated first-line, single-agent treatment for low-grade lymphoma, a disease without a known cure."

Bexxar is a radioimmunotherapy, now being jointly developed by Coulter Pharmaceutical, Inc., and SmithKline Beecham, that combines a mouse monoclonal antibody and radioactive iodine 131. It attaches to a protein found only on the surface of the blood's B-cells, including those turned malignant in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients. The compound is believed to work through a combination of immune system activity involving the monoclonal antibody, and effects from the radiation released by the iodine 131. Through this targeted approach, the tumor cells receive a greater concentration of therapeutic radiation while minimizing radiation exposure to normal tissues.

Higher doses of targeted radiation better than expected for aggressive early prostate cancer

Early-stage prostate cancer patients with the most aggressive form of the disease may benefit more from high doses of carefully delivered radiation than previous reports would suggest, a new multicenter study led by current and former University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers has found.

In fact, the study showed that X-rays delivered to the exact three-dimensional location of 180 high-risk tumors kept 79 percent of early-stage patients cancer free for at least five years a remarkable improvement over the usual 50-percent recurrence rate for those who have their prostates removed or have lower-dose radiation therapy.

The study adds to years of U-M research into lower radiation doses for less-severe prostate cancer and other tumors. While this study involved only patients with rarer, often more deadly forms of prostate cancer, its results suggest that higher doses of 3-D conformal radiation may help prostate cancer patients with less-dangerous types of the disease, says lead researcher Howard Sandler, M.D., associate professor and associate chair of radiation oncology in the U-M Health System.

"This new evidence of an advantage from higher doses not only validates the use of this approach in this subgroup of high-risk patients, it also hints strongly that lower-grade tumors could be vulnerable to increased radiation delivered with careful planning," says Dr. Sandler.

Most notably, 76 percent of patients achieved a complete remission, with no sign of cancer.

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