NICE approves rituximab as maintenance therapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published draft guidance recommending rituximab as a maintenance therapy for certain patients with follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a disease that starts in immune system cells called lymphocytes.
Follicular lymphoma is a common type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that arises from B-cell lymphocytes and accounts for about three in ten cases of the disease.
Previously, patients whose follicular lymphoma has responded to initial treatment with rituximab and chemotherapy have been told to wait for their cancer to grow again before undergoing further treatment.
Now, NICE's new draft guidance says that patients may be offered rituximab as a first-line maintenance therapy to help delay the growth and spread of the disease in this group of patients.
Earlier this year, the institute's independent appraisal committee said that it was inclined to reject rituximab for this purpose.
But it has since changed its mind after new evidence was submitted showing that rituximab maintenance therapy can help to prevent the spread and growth of the disease by three to four years.
Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director at NICE, said: "We are pleased to be able to provisionally recommend rituximab maintenance therapy as an option for the treatment of people with follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that has responded to first-line induction therapy with rituximab in combination with chemotherapy.
"Using rituximab as a maintenance treatment after initial chemotherapy for follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma could be a valuable treatment option for hundreds of patients because no such maintenance treatment has so far been available at this stage of the disease. The evidence presented to the committee highlighted that it could keep a patient's cancer in remission for longer, after they have had chemotherapy."
Professor Littlejohns added that the appraisal committee was convinced that first-line maintenance therapy with rituximab would provide value for money.
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's cancer information director, said: "We welcome NICE's decision which extends the use of rituximab to help treat follicular lymphoma. Any decision that makes treatment more accessible for those patients who will benefit is one we fully support."