The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has announced a new treatment option for patients with previously treated follicular lymphoma, bringing a new option to the market for around 900 patients.

Celgene’s Revlimid (lenalidomide) has been recommended by the health body in combination with Roche’s MabThera (rituximab) for grade one to three variations of the disease. The drug in question works by fighting cancer cells in a different way to current treatments, by interfering with cell processes to halt the growth of tumours and stopping them from producing their own blood vessels.

The decision was based on clinical trial evidence showing that taking lenalidomide with rituximab increases the length of time before the disease progresses by around 39.4 months, compared to around 13.8 months when taking rituximab alone.

Revlimid “not only offers patients a chemotherapy-free treatment option, but it also benefits those whose disease has become resistant to chemotherapy or rituximab” explained Meindert Boysen, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE.

He continued, “The use of lenalidomide with rituximab is more toxic to cancer cells than the singular use of either drug. Importantly, patients have also been seen to overcome previous resistance to rituximab when it’s taken with lenalidomide.”

The MabThera combo costs more than the chemotherapy option, but its cost-effectiveness estimate is within the range that NICE normally considers an acceptable use of NHS resources.

Last year NICE recommended Revlimid for previously untreated multiple myeloma in adults who are not eligible for a stem cell transplant and cannot take thalidomide.

Follicular lymphoma is the most common type of low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma and has few symptoms, meaning that many patients are often diagnosed once the disease is in advanced stages.

Although it has a median overall survival of more than 15 years, it remains an incurable malignancy.