A more recent development in the treatment of blood cancer is immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that boosts your immune system to stimulate the body’s normal cells to attack cancer cells. With immunotherapy you will be given medicine that mimics the body’s own antibodies (these are proteins that help to fight infection).
Two of the immunotherapy options for people with blood cancer are:
MabThera, also known as rituximab, works by targeting a marker found on certain white blood cells. In doing so, it helps to stop the abnormal growth of these white blood cells and encourages your body’s immune system to attack them.
Studies looking at the effectiveness of MabThera have shown that people with both chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can improve the length of time patients remain free of their disease, compared to standard chemotherapy medicines.1MabThera is publicly funded for certain types of blood cancer in New Zealand. MabThera is not funded for maintenance therapy in follicular lymphoma. MabThera maintenance therapy, can for some patients, considerably increase the time lymphoma stays in remission. It is not suitable for everyone, so you’ll need to speak to your doctor about whether MabThera is a suitable treatment for you. All medicines can have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time they are not
Another option for people with untreated chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is GAZYVA, also known as obinutuzumab.
Gazyva like MabThera works by targeting a marker found on certain white blood cells. In doing so, it helps to stop the abnormal growth of these white blood cells and encourages your body’s immune system to attack them.Gazyva is given in conjunction with chemotherapy as an infusion, together with a chemotherapy medicine called chlorambucil.
A study has shown that people with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia can improve the length of time patients remain free of their disease after receiving GAZYVA, compared to standard treatments.2
GAZYVA is a funded medicine for first line CLL under Special Authority for patients who meet predefined criteria. GAZYVA is unfunded for NHL. For patients who do not meet the predefined criteria there is a cost share programme available. It is not right for everyone and you’ll need to talk to your doctor about whether GAZYVA is suitable for you. All medicines can have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time they are not.
- Ministry of Health. 2014. Cancer: New registrations and deaths 2011. Wellington: Ministry of Health. Available from: http://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/cancer-new-registrations-deaths-2011-v4sept14.pdf.
Accessed April 2015.
- Ministry of Health. 2014. Selected Cancers, 2011, 2012 & 2013. Wellington: Ministry of Health. Available from: http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/selected-cancers-2011-2012-2013.
Accessed April 2015.