Patients with low-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the UK now have access to a new treatment for their disease following the launch of Napp Pharmaceuticals’ Levact this week.

Based on the natural anticancer properties of the mustard seed, Levact (bendamustine) is a new chemotherapy agent that, according to the company, will offer a new life-line to hundreds of patients in throughout the country with NHL who have failed to respond to other licensed treatments.

Napp says its drug has a unique mode of action as it combines the properties of two different types of chemotherapy - alkylating agents and purine analogues – offering a multi-pronged attack on cancer, which also seems to make treatment resistance less likely.

NHL affects around 10,000 people in the UK every year but the prognosis remains poor, with only 50% of patients surviving for five years after diagnosis, highlighting the urgent need for new, effective treatment options.

High response rate

Following a successful clinical trial programme, in which there were high rates of response to the drug (77% in one study, 75% in another), Levact was awarded a licence to treat patients with indolent NHL whose disease has progressed within six months following treatment with the commonly used agent rituximab.

According to Dr Andrew Davies, from Southampton General Hospital, the launch of Levact marks “a significant step” forward in the treatment of the disease. “Bendamustine is a useful addition to our armamentarium in the management of indolent lymphomas, showing effectiveness in patients where the disease has relapsed or has been resistant to other treatments,” he told PharmaTimes UK News. 

Levact has also won approval as a first-line treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia in patients unable to take fludarabine combination therapy, as well as a front line treatment of elderly patients with neuropathy due to multiple myeloma and who are considered not suitable for transplant.

Since November 2008 more than 450 patients have had the opportunity to benefit from Levact under a compassionate use programme.