Providence Cancer Center first in nation to offer unique trial treatment for lymphoma patients

May 21, 2013
People with B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia have a unique opportunity to participate in groundbreaking research at Providence Cancer Center. The center, internationally known for its focus on immunotherapy, is the first site in the nation to test a new non-chemotherapy treatment for those patients.

The trial treatment involves the combination of two immunotherapies – an already approved therapy, rituximab, and a new monoclonal antibody, urelumab. In April, Providence enrolled the first patient in the nation in this new trial.

Researchers know the approved therapy, rituximab, acts as a coating on cancer cells, making them more visible to the immune system. The second – and new – immunotherapy, urelumab, is expected to stimulate the immune system, helping it find and kill the cancer cells that are made more visible by rituximab.

“We believe this combination holds high promise,” said John Godwin, M.D., Providence Cancer Center medical oncologist and principal investigator for the trial. “We are seeing more and more evidence that the answer to successfully fighting cancer lies in immunotherapy. This is one more example of that.”

Providence and four other research centers in the United States are participating in the trial of this immunotherapy combination. All five sites will monitor the participating patients for the response and side effects in phase 1 of the study. The combined data will help guide researchers on how to proceed with this course of treatment in phase 2. Providence is participating in both phases of the trial.

Patients who have had multiple prior treatments for lymphoma are eligible for the trial, as are patients who have had an autologous bone marrow transplants. Patients with central nervous system disease or who have had an allogeneic bone marrow transplant are not eligible. All patients in the trial will receive the study drug. Bristol-Myers Squibb is the sponsor of the trial.

Patients interested in the trial may contact Laurie Delanty Miller, RN, Providence Cancer Center, at 503-215-2492 or by email