An experimental cancer drug from
, when given as a two-drug cocktail, continues to show early promise as a new treatment for patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, or NHL.
The drug, a monoclonal antibody called Lymphocide, was given to 21 patients in combination with the existing NHL drug Rituxan. Patients with the indolent, or less severe, form of the blood cancer had an overall response rate of 63%, or 10 patients out of 16. Nine of these patients, or 56%, experienced a complete remission. Adding Lymphocide to traditional Rituxan therapy didn't produce any additional side effects, either.
A smaller number of patients with the more aggressive form of NHL also showed some clinical benefit.
The data were presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Results from a smaller subset of these patients were detailed at last December's American Society of Hematology meeting.
Rituxan, also a monoclonal antibody and marketed by Genentech and
( IDPH), is one of the most successful biotech-derived drugs ever created, and has significantly improved the treatment options for NHL patients. So, if Rituxan is good for NHL patients maybe a one-two punch of Rituxan and Lymphocide is better -- at least that's the working theory from Immunomedics, which developed the drug in its early stages before partnering with Amgen in 2000.
Monday's results are a step in this direction, but Lymphocide still has a lot to prove. The patients in the study were still responding to Rituxan, so researchers are unable to determine just how much benefit came from Lymphocide, and how much came from Rituxan.
Amgen is currently running another clinical trial that tests the two-drug combination in patients that have become resistant to Rituxan. Results are expected later this year.
It's also still not known just how long patients can maintain their positive response to the two drugs. Rituxan has a duration of response of about 11 months. Patients in this study haven't been tracked long enough to determine just how long they respond to the new treatment.
Patients in the study who had a more aggressive form of NHL didn't respond as well.
Immunomedics is up 0.7% in recent trading Monday. Amgen is off $1.09, or 2.1%, to $49.60.