Taking part in a clinical trial may be a treatment choice for some hairy cell leukemia patients. Clinical trials are under way to develop treatments that increase the remission rate of hairy cell leukemia or cure the disease. Today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society continues to invest funds in hairy cell leukemia research.
Clinical trials can involve new drugs, new combinations of drugs or approved drugs being studied to treat patients in new ways such as new drug doses or new schedules to administer the drugs. Clinical trials are conducted worldwide under rigorous guidelines to help doctors find out whether new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.
Current Hairy Cell Leukemia Research and Clinical Trials
Below are some types of research and clinical trials for new or improved drug therapies under way:
Rituximab (Rituxan®). Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody that targets CD20, a characteristic marking (antigen) found on the surface of B lymphocytes that develop into hairy cells. When it binds to CD20, it stimulates the immune system to mount an attack against the cancer cells. Scientists are studying its effectiveness when used after the chemotherapy drug cladribine (Leustatin®) to eliminate minimal residual disease. Rituximab has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat CD-20 positive follicular, low-grade and diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
BL22. This agent, developed at the National Cancer Institute, is an immunoconjugate, which means that it combines an antibody with a toxic substance, which kills hairy cells. Like rituximab, BL22 also targets a specific antigen, CD22, on hairy cells. It's proven to be an effective treatment for patients who are or who've become resistant to other therapies.
LMB-2. Scientists are studying the effects of this agent, called an immunotoxin, on patients with recurrent or refractory CD25-positive hairy cell leukemia. LMB-2 is made up of two substances: a genetically engineered monoclonal antibody that binds to cancer cells with CD25 on their surface and a toxic substance to kill the cells.