Researchers at the University of Southampton have identified an experimental drug that could be five times more effective than current treatments for certain patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the sixth most common cancer in the UK.
Drugs called 'monoclonal antibodies' have revolutionised treatment for blood cancers in recent years and one of these drugs, Rituximab, has become one of the standard treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Unfortunately, a significant percentage of patients are unresponsive to Rituximab or go on to develop resistance to the drug. To overcome this, there have been a number of attempts to develop alternative monoclonal antibodies for use in the treatment of lymphoma.
Dr Mark Cragg and his team at the University of Southampton School of Medicine have demonstrated in the laboratory that a new 'type II' monoclonal antibody is five times more effective at killing lymphoma cells than current 'type I' drugs such as Rituximab.
The results of the research, which was funded by the charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, are published online in the prestigious medical journal Blood.
Monoclonal antibody drugs work by seeking out and attaching themselves to a specific protein found only on the surface of cancer cells. The cancer cells are then 'flagged' and can be sought out and destroyed.
The researchers found that the new 'type II' monoclonal antibody is so much more effective at destroying lymphoma cells than Rituximab because of the different ways that the two drugs react with the protein on the surface of the cancer cell.
Dr Cragg said: "We now know why these new 'type II' drugs are more effective and last longer in the body than current drugs. This strengthens the case for developing more type II monoclonal antibodies in the future."
Dr David Grant, Scientific Director at Leukaemia Research, said: "Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma has progressed rapidly in recent years, but even now there are many patients who still do not respond to treatment. This research offers hope to these patients and suggests that more effective drugs could be developed in the near future."
Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research currently has £3,700,000 invested in blood cancer research in Southampton.