Combo therapy trial achieves 94% remission rate for Hodgkin's lymphoma
A combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy has proven promising in treating patients with advanced Hodgkin Lymphoma, and removes the need for radiation therapy in kids. In a new phase 3 clinical trial, 94% of patients receiving the combo treatment were in remission after one year.
Hodgkin Lymphoma is a relatively rare kind of cancer that affects the lymph nodes. It mostly strikes younger people, between the ages of 20 and 40, and can often be treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
A new clinical trial has now investigated adding immunotherapy to the mix. It ran between July 2019 and October 2022 and involved almost 1,000 patients with stage 3 or 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma. The trial compared a standard treatment of chemotherapy with the drug brentuximab vedotin, against a pairing of chemotherapy and an immunotherapy drug called nivolumab.
And sure enough, the group that received the immunotherapy and chemotherapy combo saw 94% of patients entering remission, with follow-up over the course of a year. Out of hundreds of people, there were only four deaths in that group, compared to 11 in the group receiving chemotherapy alone, which saw 86% of patients achieve remission.
In fact, the team says that the trial was so successful the National Cancer Institute (NCI) ordered it be halted early so that the FDA could expedite approval of the therapy to treat stage 3 and 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“The results are remarkable,” said Alex Herrera, lead investigator of the trial. “The combination of nivolumab and chemotherapy is potent and safe in patients with stage 3 or 4 classic Hodgkin lymphoma as an initial treatment. This is indeed great news for patients with this cancer, as there is another effective and safe option for them.”
Importantly, a key part of the trial was the inclusion of patients as young as 12. Radiation therapy is a common treatment for this group, but not only is that more unpleasant in the moment but it carries a higher risk of serious side effects later in life. In this study, it was effectively replaced by immunotherapy.
“By eliminating radiation for children enrolled in this trial, we essentially took away the risks of many toxic late effects,” said Jonathan Friedberg, senior investigator of the study. “But we only have one year of follow-up data for our trial at this point, and we will continue to watch for side effects in the future.”