'Five-minute' blood cancer injection cuts treatment time by two hours

A new injection for blood cancer patients trialled at Southampton’s teaching hospitals can deliver a two-hour dose of drugs in around five minutes.

Patients diagnosed with follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a disease that attacks one specific type of infection-fighting cell, previously had rituximab administered via an intravenous drip.

Around 4,000 people, mainly in their 60s, are diagnosed with the condition in the UK every year and the majority of them will receive the drug, which targets and destroys specific proteins on the surface of cancerous cells, alongside chemotherapy to help eliminate all signs of the lymphoma and induce remission.

At the moment, most sufferers receive both treatments via a drip in a four-hour session once every three weeks. When the six-month course of chemotherapy ends, patients often require a further two years of rituximab given over two hours once every eight weeks.

Results of the multi-centre international study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Atlanta, showed that giving the drug by a quick injection under the skin was as safe and effective as the conventional intravenous treatment.

Dr Andrew Davies, a consultant in medical oncology at Southampton General Hospital and study lead, said: “This is a new formulation of a drug we are very familiar with and have been using for many years and the study demonstrates injection is equivalent to the intravenous drip method.

“In the near future, patients will be able to benefit from shorter, more convenient and potentially less complicated hospital visits, which will greatly reduce administration time for NHL patients and ease the capacity burden in busy chemotherapy day units.”

Dr Davies, who is also a Cancer Research UK senior lecturer at the University of Southampton, added: “There is a high degree of patient preference and satisfaction with this new formulation of rituximab in Southampton and we hope to see it rolled out nationwide very soon."

Posted on Thursday 24 January 2013