New cancer drug approved for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma

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by Kristina Collins, 8 Oct 2006

Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system. There are two general types of lymphomas. Hodgkin's Disease, named after Dr. Thomas Hodgkin who first recognized the disease in 1832, and Non-Hodgkin's Disease (NHL). The difference between these two cancers is that Hodgkin's disease contains specific cells that are not seen in any other lymphomas. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is actually a group of about ten different types. One rare type of NHL is called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL).

CTCL accounts for about one in twenty cases of NHL. It mainly affects the skin and can often mimic several skin disorders. It is caused by the uncontrolled growth of a type of white blood cell in the skin called a T-cell.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Zolinza on Friday to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. The FDA says drug should be used if there is a recurrence of CTCL or if the disease persists or gets worse with other medications.

Zolinza is thought to silence some genes that when left unchecked allow cancerous cells to grow. It is a new class of cancer drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors. At the current time the cancer.gov website lists 36 clinical trials involving Zolinza alone or in combination with other drugs.

Merck & Co. Inc, the maker of Zolinza, plan on studying the drug as a tumor-fighting treatment for other cancers, including the breast and lung cancer.

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