Follicular Lymphoma is a type of cancer that forms in the white blood cells in the body, called lymphocytes. There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Follicular lymphoma is a subgroup of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States.
Only about one in five people diagnosed with lymphoma, in the United States, is follicular lymphoma. Also the rate of follicular lymphoma affecting young people is very low. The average age of someone who has this type of cancer is around 60. Because, in general, follicular lymphoma grows slowly, doctors may call it “indolent” lymphoma.
What are the Symptoms of Follicular Lymphoma?
The symptoms of follicular lymphoma:
- Enlargement of lymph nodes (neck, armpits, navel or groin)
- Excessive tiredness
- Weight loss for no apparent reason
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent fever and night sweats
- Various infection problems
Although these symptoms generally appear in patients, there are also cases where there are no symptoms.
How Is Follicular Lymphoma Diagnosed?
Certain tests need to be done to make a definitive clinical diagnosis. Your doctor may do the following tests to diagnose follicular lymphoma:
- Biopsy: A biopsy is performed to examine the enlarged lymph node tissue under a microscope and to determine whether it is cancerous.
- Blood test: You are asked to check the number of blood cells.
- Computed tomography (CT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning: Your doctor may recommend having an imaging scan to see the lymphoma in your body and plan how your treatment will progress. Computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) are among the commonly used types of scanning for the diagnosis of follicular lymphoma.
Rituximab Clinical Trials and Effect
Patients with follicular lymphoma can be in remission after successful treatment. It is not known exactly how long this remission process will take. The process varies according to the patient’s condition. When the human body encounters a health-threatening threat, it immediately starts producing antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are drugs produced in laboratories that target specific cells in tumors. They help immune cells fight cancer. These drugs are also called “targeted drugs” or “smart drugs”.
Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody therapy used in advanced follicular lymphoma stages, and its target if a marker called CD20 which is found in lymphocytes. Rituxan is an FDA approved drug, based on results of the PRIMA (primary Rituxan and maintenance) Phase III clinical trial. Rituximab is given as an IV infusion at your doctor’s office and is often used in combination with chemotherapy.
Given that some patients may have disease recurrence after Rituximab, patients are encouraged to enroll in clinical trials using novel drugs.
Are all clinical trials done with FDA approved drugs only?
Some clinical trials include drugs that are already approved by the FDA, and many trials are drugs that are still in testing. All drugs must go through extensive research via clinical trials before being approved by the FDA to ensure their safety and efficacy.