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Leukaemia patients to benefit as treatment

Leukaemia patients to benefit as treatment to prolong survival is funded

New Zealanders with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), an incurable form of white blood cell cancer, can now receive funded treatment with MabThera® (rituximab) a leading-edge biotherapy.

From 1 August MabThera will be funded for use in combination with chemotherapy drugs fludarabine and cyclophosphamide (FC) for CLL for both first line patients (those who have not previously been treated) and relapsed patients who have not had MabThera in first line treatment.

Internationally, CLL is the most common type of leukaemia to affect adults accounting for approximately 25-30 percent of all leukaemias.2 More than 140 New Zealanders are diagnosed with CLL each year and approximately 35 will die from the disease.

Peter Browett, consultant haematologist at Auckland City Hospital and medical director of the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation, says “ the funding of MabThera in combination with chemotherapy for patients with CLL is good news for New Zealanders with the disease”.

When added to chemotherapy MabThera has been shown to extend disease-free survival and the quality of life of patients with CLL.4,5 Many patients with CLL go through periods of remission and relapse, severely impacting their quality and enjoyment of life.
This new form of therapy will allow patients to enjoy prolonged survival, longer remission times and increased quality of life.

Leanne Berkahn, also a consultant haematologist at Auckland City Hospital, says “the addition of MabThera to chemotherapy as a treatment for CLL will provide benefit to both patients and their families”.

A recent large-scale clinical trial highlighted the effectiveness of MabThera in extending the time patients lived without their CLL progressing.

The CLL8 trial compared patients who had not previously been treated and who would normally receive chemotherapy only, with patients who received MabThera in combination with chemotherapy.4
Data from the Phase III CLL8 study showed that the addition of MabThera to FC chemotherapy significantly prolonged median progression free survival by 19 months and reduced the risk of death by 33 percent.

A further study in relapsed patients showed that MabThera plus chemotherapy prolonged median progression free survival by 10 months compared to chemotherapy alone and reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 35 percent.

“MabThera gives patients with CLL a real hope of living longer,” adds Professor Browett.

About 30 New Zealanders from Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch have participated in large-scale international clinical trials in CLL.


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