EMA recommends new lymphoma treatment options

The European Medicines Agency has recommended new treatment options for people with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

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In its November meeting, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended the approval of two treatment options for lymphoma:

  • A new targeted drug called polatuzumab vedotin, in combination with bendamustine (a chemotherapy drug) and rituximab, was recommended for people with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) that has come back (relapsed) or not responded (refractory) to previous treatment and who are not able to have a stem cell transplant. Polatuzumab vedotin is an antibody-drug conjugate: an antibody joined to a strong anti-cancer drug. The antibody sticks to protein called CD79b on lymphoma cells and delivers the drug directly to them.
  • An existing drug called lenalidomide, in combination with rituximab, was recommended for people with follicular lymphoma that has come back (relapsed) or not responded (refractory) to previous treatment. Lenalidomide affects the activity of the immune system in several different ways. It helps the immune system attack lymphoma cells and prevent the lymphoma from growing. It is already approved for people with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma, although it is not currently available on the NHS for this use.

The recommendations will now be passed to the European Commission, which will decide whether or not to grant a licence for the drugs to be used for these indications in Europe. At the time of writing, it is not certain how Brexit (the UK’s decision to leave the European Union) will affect the drug approval process in the UK.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is currently assessing these treatments to decide if they should be made available on the NHS. Lymphoma Action is among the patient representative groups and professional bodies providing input into the NICE appraisal process. We will report on the outcome as soon as a decision has been published.

10 December 2019