Monday, March 09, 2009

March 9, 2009 - More Questions About Maintenance Rituxan

Steve, a reader of this blog, reminded me of a 2006 European study that found “dramatic” results in follicular NHL patients who were receiving maintenance Rituxan treatments. Unlike the one I cited yesterday, this study includes patients who have received R-CHOP.

Those patients in the study who received R-CHOP, and who subsequently received maintenance Rituxan, experienced an average of 52 months without their disease progressing – as opposed to 23 months in the control group. That’s more than double the time.

That raises a lot of questions for me. My disease has already returned, but it’s not doing much of anything. Every time I go for a scan, the verdict is, “Still there, but no bigger.” Dr. Lerner has me on “watch and wait,” the reasons being that (1) my slightly enlarged, malignant lymph nodes are doing no immediate harm, and (2) when they get large enough to treat, there’s a high likelihood that a second round of chemo will put me back into remission (and, if I receive a stem-cell transplant instead, there’s even the possibility of a cure).

I don’t know whether starting on Rituxan-only treatments is still an option for me, at this stage – everyone in the research studies presumably began receiving them right after their chemo. Even if maintenance Rituxan is still available to me (and if we could convince the insurance company to fund it), I’m still not sure it’s the best idea. Dr. Lerner’s cool-under-fire strategy of waiting till we see the whites of their eyes before we start blasting away appeals to me.

Questions, questions. What if? When? Why? Why not? You never get away from the questions, when you’re a cancer survivor.

“Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!”

– Psalm 27:14


Mikha'el said...

I just started Rituxan as a single agent with no prior chemo so I can't say much yet. Very hopeful for a great response I plan to have from the drug and hope it keeps worse things at bay for quite some time. Glad to be actually doing something proactive but understand wanting to wait as your doc suggests. Best of health and all life's best

Carl said...

Thanks, Mikha'el. Good wishes and prayers for your good health, as well.