Great News for Lymphoma Patients

5 Jun

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!
♥ Rachel


11 Responses to “Great News for Lymphoma Patients”

  1. Tranquil Moments Photography June 5, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    Now that is good news. You are paving the way for other lymphoma cancer patients :) Have a terrific Tuesday Rached!

  2. Melissa September 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    My FIL stats this regine be tomorrow. Praying for a smooth start. Very encouraged on the efficiancy. Any last minute advice? We have 2nd young, active boys and I am worried about exposures.

    • rachturner September 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

      Hi Melissa – So sorry to hear about your FIL, but this regimine is good and effective. I experienced minimal side effects, too. I wouldn’t be too worried about exposure due to chemotherapy – I don’t think that’s a risk at all, especially with Bendamustine and Rituxan. Is he also getting radiation? If that’s the case, there might be reason to limit their exposure to him during certain times, but his doctor should be able to provide guidance there based on his specific treatment plan. Hope that everything turns out very well for him!

  3. Richard February 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    I share your enthusiasm for the study report. I was diagnosed at the end of 2012 with indolent follicular lymphoma Grade 1, Stage IIIB. I had looked at treatment options and had decided I would ask my doctor about the Bendamustine-Rituxan route before we met to decide. Imagine my surprise when he recommended exactly that combination. I asked how likely it was my insurance would cover it and he said they have had such good results with it that he would go to bat for me to use it as I was a perfect candidate for it. I have had 2 cycles so far and very few side effects and even still have all my hair. The hardest part is the long infusion time for the Rituxan as it lasts about 6 hours, plus an hour and a half for the Bendamustine.

    I sure hope I am one of the ones that it helps a lot and keeps me in remission a long time if I get there.

    Good luck to you!

  4. Romeo Zavala May 13, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    Thank you for this blog, I just did my first treatment with these two chemo drugs that you referenced. The hardest part was dealing with the burning sensation on my scalp, forehead, legs, and arms.
    How do you manage this pain when it happens? Help!

    • rachturner May 27, 2014 at 9:19 am #

      Hi Romeo – It’s been a while since I went through R-B, but I don’t recall having a strong burning sensation. I did have some numbness in my legs and feet, but not really anything that I would consider to feel like burning. I hope your symptoms have improved and you feel strong as you get ready for your second treatment!

    • suzie rj January 15, 2017 at 9:30 pm #

      Everyone is different, so we all don’t have the same side effects as you are experiencing. Did you contact your cancer center to find out what to
      do about the pain?

  5. Dave Jasper August 15, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    Hi Rachel, I just came across your blog and will be following your progress. I started on RB in the uk 2 weeks ago. I had R CHOP a few years ago when first diagnosed with follicular nhl, stage 1 grade 3a but the cancer has now returned so RB is the treatment both my oncologist and I thought was the best option. After a bad few days with nausea and vomiting I am now feeling pretty good apart from a lack of get up and go, and all my very visible neck tumours have completely disappeared like magic, which is mind blowing! Not as bad as R CHOP, I will keep my hair this time, but not exactly a pleasant experience either. I will be having R maintenance for 2 years after 3 cycles of RB. Are you on this regime now? Wondered how you found the side effects compared to the chemo.
    Best wishes,

  6. suzie rj January 15, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    In Sept. I was diagnosed with B-cell Lymphoma, Stage 3, and went through 4 months of chemo-the B.R. combo. The only side effects I experienced was a general feeling of nausea, which would last exactly 7 days after the 2nd day of chemo. After 3 months I had a CatScan, which showed I had no more cancer cells in my body. At the end of this month,
    I have my last round of chemo…and then will go on a maintenance plan of just 1 drug every
    2 months for 2 years.
    Wonder if anyone has gone through the maintenance plan, or is going through it. If so, do
    you have side effects?

  7. David Balz May 19, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    Thank you for your comments everyone. I am 60 years old, recently diagnosed with grade 1/2 stage 3A follicular, indolent, NHL. (That’s quite a discriptor!) Fortunate for me, my wife the RN observed that I had ever-enlarging lymph node. Taking exception to the hematologists’ blow-off, “Oh, you probably had a recent infection. If it doesn’t hurt don’t worry about it”, my wife got me scheduled with my friend the surgeon and had it removed. Pathology report: Lymphoma! Needless to say that was my last trip to that hematologist!

    I am now being treated at one of the US’ most respected research and treatment clinics. I have had chronic anemia, so with the help of a couple of iron infusions (Injectafer) my hemoglobin is approaching the normal range and I am set to begin chemo in June. It will be Rituxan-Bendamustine (R-B) combination, administered i.v. Six two-day sessions 28 days apart. I am hopeful for the beneficial results others have noted.

    Since I already sport a smooth head (bald as a cue ball) I have no worries of hair loss. But being a bit of a wimp, I have concern about the other side effects. I will put on my best positive attitude, a brave (looking) smile, and realize that this has the potential of a clean PET scan at the end (I lit up the first one like a Christmas tree!). I just really appreciate all you brave folks. If you know of other blogs or personal stories about experience/results of the R-B combo, please post. Many thanks and prayers for good health, great recovery and thanks for the caregivers.

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