Sunday, September 18, 2016

Help Save RIT (RadioImmunoTherapy)

I need you to read a short but important piece on RadioImmunoTherapy called "Limited Access to Radioimmunotherapy in the Community Setting May Lead to Extinction of a Unique Lymphoma Treatment" on ASCO Post.

It was written by Karl Schwartz, President of Patients Against Lymphoma (PAL), which runs the site (which I have linked to many times). PAL not only provides online information about our disease, but also does lots of advocacy work on our behalf. This article is part of tht advocacy.

As Karl explains in the article, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires doctors who administer RIT (such as Zevalin) to have 700 hours of training in nuclear medicine before they can do so. Zevalin works by delivering a tiny dose of radiation directly to a Follicular Lymphoma cell by holding on to a monoclonal antibody (like Rituxan) that finds FL cells. This lets radiation get to a cell that won't hold still for more traditional radiation treatments.

And RIT is effective: different studies have shown that patients have a 90% to 100% Overall Response Rate, and a 60% to 100% Complete Response Rate. Responses have lasted a median of 6 years in some studies. Because the radiation is delivered right to cancer cells, side effects are manageable. It's safe and it's effective.

And it might be going away. The 700 hours is fine for a nuclear medicine specialist, who will learn all about the full range of nuclear medicine options. But for a community oncologist (the cancer doctor whose office most of us go to), they don't need the full range of training -- only the few hours to learn how to administer RIT. This means most don't get the training, and we patients lose out on an effective treatment.

Bexxar, another RIT treatment, is no longer being produced. Not enough people were using it to make it worth it. Now Zevalin, the remaining RIT option for Follicular Lymphoma patients, is in danger of being discontinued.

We may lose an arrow from our quiver. A really good one.

Karl explains what we can do: "Contact the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) committee and reference a patient-endorsed letter by Patients Against Lymphoma."

Read Karl's article (he makes the case better than I do). Contact the U.S. Senate HELP Committee. Help save another option for treatment of Follicular Lymphoma.

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