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Cancer treatment drug gets approval

Health officials have approved the use of a drug designed to slow the growth of follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) states that MabThera (rituximab) can be used as a maintenance treatment for patients with the cancer, who have initially received the drug alongside chemotherapy.

At present, patients must wait for their cancer to come back after successful initial therapy before being given further treatment. The new treatment could benefit around 1,600 patients every year.

NICE said that tests have shown the drug to be a viable and cost-effective NHS maintenance treatment for people with follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Evidence presented to NICE by the drug's manufacturer, Roche, and consultants in the field showed treating patients on a maintenance basis could prevent the spread and growth of the cancer by three to four years.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, Clinical and Public Health Director at NICE said: "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."

Evidence from Roche suggests MabThera can almost halve the risk of cancer returning at three years compared with observation.

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