Promising new drug treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma patients

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Nicholas Karsen
Published: Updated:

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma affects 80,000 people, and 20,000 will die from it. However, a promising new treatment may help those afflicted.

There are several types of non-Hodgkins lymphoma that can affect people ages 60 and over. Younger people are not immune, but cases are rare. The rarer the form of the cancer, the less likely you are to survive it.

However, new medication and novel therapies have given patients a fighting chance with the cancer diagnosis.

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma has been brought to the forefront after actor Sam Neill announced his diagnosis earlier this year. The 75-year-old actor announced he had Angioimmunoblastic T-cell Lymphoma (AITL), a stage three blood cancer.

“My news seems to be all over the news at the moment,” said Neill.

A new chemo drug put Neill into remission, but his diagnosis has shed a light on this rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“Sam Neill presented, kind of, right at the right median age of when most people are diagnosed with this; they commonly present with things like fever, chills, night sweats, some weight loss,” said Oncologist Bradley Haverkos.

Oncologists said there are promising new therapies in the pipeline for AITL. The first targets a biomarker in the Epstein Barr virus that is also present in patients with AITL. Then, they use a combination of drugs to kill the virus.

“We can get rid of the lymphoma cells because we think the virus, in part, drives the cancer. We’re also very interested and see if we can develop ways so that your own immune system can fight this cancer, as well,” said Haverkos.

Two new therapies could give Neill, and others like him, a chance to win against this killer.

Dr. Haverkos said, only 25% of people are alive five years after diagnosis, and unfortunately once you relapse with this disease, it’s generally incurable.

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