If you don’t have lymphoma or know someone who does (other than me!), today’s post might bore you a bit. I hope not, because the news is really great, but I’m just giving you fair warning. :)
Back when I received my official diagnosis last August, Dr. Daniel said he wanted to start me on a treatment plan referred to as R-B which included just two drugs: Rituxan + Bendamustine (or Treanda as it is also referred to). He felt like this combination of drugs would serve me well being that I have an indolent (slow-growing) form of follicular lymphoma even though the standard protocol called for something known as R-CHOP which consists of five drugs: Rituxan + Cytoxan + Adriamycin + Vincristine + Prednisone.
He explained the benefits of R-B as being lower toxicity, fewer/nicer side effects, and a slim chance of hair loss. With R-CHOP, the treatment is harder to endure and usually results in hair loss. Because my cancer is not aggressive, he felt like R-B would be strong enough to do the job without subjecting me to unnecessary side effects.
If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you may recall that we had a delay in starting treatment. My insurance company questioned the use of R-B and would only approve R-CHOP because it is the currently the accepted protocol for non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dr. Daniel was able to convince them R-B was the best treatment plan for me.
I trust Dr. Daniel with my life (obviously) and believed that he knew what was best for me (still do). Of course, there’s always been that little voice in my head that made me wonder if R-CHOP would have been better – if it would have attacked the cancer cells more aggressively. We’ll never know, but because of the good scans I’ve had, I don’t stay awake at night worrying about it.
However…I was super excited to read a report released two days ago about the efficacy of R-B for the treatment of indolent forms of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma such as follicular (like mine) and mantle cell. The report was given at The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting that was held in Chicago over the weekend. Based on a study of 514 patients who had never been treated for indolent lymphoma before, the use of Bendamustine along with Rituxan more than doubled progression-free survival.
Woohoo for Dr. Daniel and his treatment plan!!
Dr. Joshua Brody, Assistant Professor of Hematology/Oncology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, had this to say about the report:
“Simultaneously increasing efficacy and decreasing toxicity is a rare win-win in oncology, and this has already prompted an enormous shift in the way we care for these patients,” he said.
That’s really the key. They were hoping to reduce toxicity for patients and maintain the same level of efficacy with treatment, but what they found was even better – reduced toxicity PLUS better outcomes. Definitely a win-win for all lymphoma patients.
I also learned that Bendamustine was first developed in Germany in the 1960s but was not really used until around 10 years ago when it was reintroduced as a treatment for lymphoma. Useless trivia, I know, but I thought it was interesting. :)
Based on the results of the study, R-B will most likely become the “first-line” treatment for many oncologists. It’s a great feeling to know that the treatment my doctor chose for me hold so much promise not only for me, but for the other 70,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with lymphoma each year.
Have a superb day!