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'Smart Bomb' Attacks Lymphoma

Zevalin gets nod to battle non-Hodgkin's cancer

THURSDAY, Feb. 21, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- IDEC Pharmaceuticals' Zevalin is the first drug approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration to attack a form of lymphoma by bringing radiation directly to malignant cells.

The technique is called radioimmunotherapy. The common vernacular has dubbed the process a "smart bomb," in which radiation is added to the antibodies that seek out a protein in lymphoma cells.

FDA approval comes after studies concluded that hard-to-treat lymphoma cases showed measurable improvement. In one study, 75 percent of the lymphoma patients showed significant shrinkage in their tumors after being treated with Zevalin.

About 55,000 Americans are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma each year. Government approval is specifically for those patients with low-grade follicular lymphoma for whom other treatments have failed.

This explanation from the Lymphoma Information Network describes both the advantages and risks involved with using Zevalin.

Here is the FDA Talk Paper on the Zevalin approval. The agency notes that the toxicity level is very high, and that's why its use is being considered for patients only after all other measures have failed.

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