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“For patients who have relapsed or who have not responded to treatment, it really provides a transformative option,” said Antonella Rizza, chief executive officer of Lymphoma Canada. “These patients were previously facing a dire prognosis.”
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the lymphatic system, the body’s disease and infection-fighting network. Tumours develop from white blood cells called lymphocytes.
Conventional treatments include radiation, chemotherapy and other drug therapies; some patients may also undergo stem cell transplants. CAR T-cell therapy offers an important new option to the minority of people whose cancer resists those treatments.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, about 10,400 Canadians are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma every year.
Health Canada approved Yescarta as a treatment in February 2019 based on encouraging data from a clinical trial and two years of follow-up studies with enrolled patients, all of whom had aggressive forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the past, adult patients with recurrent or treatment-resistant lymphoma survived an average of six months.
The study found that 74 per cent of 101 adult patients treated once with Yescarta responded to the therapy and that 54 per cent achieved complete remission.
“It’s certainly very impressive,” Dr. Kennah said of the clinical trial results. “These immune-based therapies have really revolutionized the field and have shown these long-term, durable remissions.”