In early research led by the University of Michigan Health Rogel Cancer Center, the oral drug zanubrutinib was shown to help most patients with a slow-growing type of cancer called marginal zone lymphoma.
The cancer decreased in 80% of the 20 patients in the clinical trial with lymphoma in the marginal zone, and one fifth experienced complete remission.
A much smaller proportion of the 33 participants with follicular lymphoma, a similar cancer, responded to the drug. But imaging showed no signs of cancer for 18% of those who did.
The most common side effects ranged from diarrhea, bruising and rash to colds, fever and decreased levels of white blood cells, which are part of the immune system and important in fighting infections.
Based on the results of this research and a secondary study called MAGNOLIA, the Food and Drug Administration approved zanubrutinib on a quota basis for adults with marginal zone lymphoma who have returned or been shown to be resistant to other treatments.
“Treatment options with improved tolerability and better disease control were much needed for marginal zone lymphoma and follicular lymphoma,” said Tycel Phillips, MD, a hematologist at Rogel Cancer Center, a clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School and the leader. the author of the study. “While the small size of this study limits broad conclusions, the safety and efficacy results highlight the potential of zanubrutinib as an adjunct to available therapies for these cancers.”
Lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the lymphatic system, the tissues and organs that produce and store white blood cells. Marginal zone and follicular lymphoma develop when white blood cells called B cells are damaged and begin to grow out of control.
To date, physicians have not been able to cure patients from their marginal zone or follicular lymphoma with chemotherapy, so researchers have been eager to find other, more tolerable and successful treatments for the diseases.
Zanubrutinib is a new type of drug called a Bruton tyrosine kinase inhibitor, which blocks an enzyme known as BTK that plays a crucial role in a signaling pathway that lymphoma often depends on in order to survive and grow. The drug is only the third BTK inhibitor approved for cancer that begins in B cells.