The use of rituximab for lymphoma is generally thought to be effective at increasing the lifespan of affected patients. Generally, the use of rituximab is associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and when patients receive maintenance doses of the drug, their lifespan increases when compared to similar patients who did not receive the treatment. Despite these positive initial findings, the use of rituximab for lymphoma does have some serious associated side effects, including liver failure, kidney problems and even death. The drug generally is prescribed only if other treatments have proved to be ineffective for the particular patient.
A type of cancer, lymphoma affects the lymphocyte cells of the lymphatic system, which is associated with the human immune system. Many types of lymphoma exist. They all affect the B and T cells that usually fight off infections in the body. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a specific type of lymphoma that usually occurs in adults and generally affects about 2 percent of all people. This cancer is considerably more common if the patient already has a weakened immune system.
Classified as a monoclonal antibody, rituximab is administered intravenously, usually to treat rheumatoid arthritis or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Rituximab for lymphoma is a man-made antibody that was developed using cloned human and mice or rat genes. The drug comes in disposable vials consisting of either 100 milligrams or 500 milligrams, and it must be mixed with another liquid before being administered. Other treatments in the same classification of rituximab include trastuzumab and gemtuzumab ozogamicin.
Rituximab for lymphoma works by attaching itself to the receptors on the outside of the tumor and then working to break it down. Most non-Hodgkins lymphoma tumor cells include a receptor called CD20, which is targeted by the drug. A receptor usually is affected by molecules that attach themselves to it and cause growth or even multiplication of the tumor. To reduce the size of the tumor, rituximab essentially causes it to disintegrate when it attaches to the CD20 receptor.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has several forms, and rituximab usually is used in patients who have follicular lymphoma, which is a common variety. Many studies have been conducted into the effects of the drug. Most research focuses on the use of rituximab as a maintenance therapy, which means that the patients’ cancer is in remission when the treatment is started. Scientific studies indicate that patients who were treated with rituximab had better overall survival rates than those who were given no maintenance therapy.