WASHINGTON — Thousands of patients with an incurable type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma won their first new weapon in a decade Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration approved a novel, genetically engineered drug to attack the immune system cancer with far fewer side effects than standard treatment.
Rituxan is not a cure, but the FDA said it has an “excellent” success rate in shrinking tumors safely.
The approval makes Rituxan the nation’s first anti-cancer monoclonal antibody — a long-awaited biotherapy in which specially manufactured antibodies bind to cancer cells and trigger the immune system to do the killing instead of toxic chemicals.
One patient who tested Rituxan called the approval “something to celebrate this Thanksgiving.”
“Even though my type of lymphoma is still considered incurable, Rituxan has renewed my hope of raising my three children,” said Dr. Wendy Harpham, a Richardson, Texas, physician who failed other treatments before Rituxan therapy put her cancer in remission.
About 240,000 Americans have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.