Early research by the Rogel Center for Health at the University of Michigan found that the oral drug zanubrutinib helps most patients with a slow-growing type of cancer known as marginal lymphoma.
The cancer was reduced in 80% of the 20 patients who participated in the clinical study with marginal lymphoma, with the fifth in complete remission.
A significantly smaller proportion of the 33 participants with follicular lymphoma, similar to cancer, responded to the drug. But imaging found no signs of cancer in 18% of those who did.
The most common side effects ranged from diarrhea, bruising and rash to colds, fevers and low white blood cell counts, which are part of the immune system and important for fighting infections.
Based on the results of this study, as well as a secondary study called MAGNOLIA, the Food and Drug Administration approved contingency-based zanbrutinib for adults with marginal lymphoma that has returned or proved resistant to other treatments.
“Treatment options with improved tolerability and better disease control were essential for marginal lymphoma and follicular lymphoma,” said Thyssel Phillips, MD, hematologist at Rogel Cancer Center, clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Medicine. “Although the small size of this study limits the broad conclusions, safety and efficacy results underscore the potential of zanubrutinib as an adjunct to available treatments for these cancers.”
Lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the lymphatic system, tissues and organs that produce and store white blood cells. Marginal area and follicular lymphomas develop when white blood cells, called B cells, are damaged and begin to grow uncontrollably.
So far, doctors have not been able to cure patients with their marginal area or follicular lymphoma with chemotherapy, so researchers are looking to find other, more tolerant and successful treatments for the disease.
Zanbrutinib is a new type of drug called the Bruton tyrosine kinase inhibitor, which blocks an enzyme known as BTK, which plays a crucial role in the signaling pathway on which lymph often depends to survive and grow. The drug is only the third BTK inhibitor to be approved for the treatment of B-cell cancers.
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