Brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris) is part of a new class of cancer drugs combining an antibody, which recognises a specific protein expressed in Hodgkin Lymphoma, and a cytotoxic drug (toxic to cells) allowing the cytotoxic drug to be delivered directly to cancer cells.
In traditional chemotherapy regimes there is no distinction between healthy and cancer cells so healthy cells are also damaged. Drugs like Bentuximab have far less side effects compared to traditional cancer treatrments as they are stable in the bloodstream and only release their cytotoxic component after being internalized by the tumor cell which has the specific protein.
Adcetris is the first new FDA-approved treatment for Hodgkin Lymphoma since 1977.
The FDA approved Brentuximab after a trial of 102 patients with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma. Seventy-three percent of patients achieved either a complete or partial (more than 50% reduction) remission after the treatment. Overall 94% of patients responded positively to the treatment.
Brentuximab is not currently funded under the Pharmaceutical Benefits System in Australia.
The PBS subsidises prescription drugs so that Australians can access affordable medications. However it has become an increasingly difficult and drawn out process for companies to have new life-saving drugs approved. In the last 10 years the average time it takes to have a drug approved has grown from 14.6 months to 31 months.