Roche’s MabThera has won favour with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence yet again, this time as a maintenance treatment for patients with relapsed/refractory follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The Institute has issued final guidance recommending the drug - the world’s first monoclonal antibody to be approved for the treatment of cancer - as a maintenance therapy for patients who have responded to induction therapy with chemotherapy.

Experts certainly seem excited about the addition of MabThera (rituxan) to the National Health Service’s treatment menu, with Dr Premini Mahendra, Consultant Haematologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, claiming that the drug is “continuing to revolutionise the management of NHL”.

The buzz around MabThera stems from the fact that, in clinical trials, it was able to cut patients’ risk of death by 48% as well as substantially extend disease-free survival to over four years compared to just 14.9 months in patients left untreated during the remission period.

Novel treatment approach
The drug therefore represents a novel treatment approach for NHL, in that it allows patients with the potentially fatal disease to manage it as a chronic condition, Roche notes. “By reducing the risk of death and trebling progression free survival in patients living with this disease, the maintenance approach to treatment is moving this cancer to a chronic disease status,” added Mahendra.

MabThera was first launched 10 years ago and remains the only therapy able to boost overall patient survival when given in combination with chemotherapy to treat aggressive NHL, according to Roche. The drug, which pulled in sales of 5.52 billion Francs in 2007, was also been endorsed by NICE as a treatment option for adults with severe active rheumatoid arthritis in August last year.