One of the most promising leukaemia treatments to date, MabThera (rituximab) is now available in the UK for the treatment of relapsed and difficult-to-treat chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), the most common form of leukaemia.

The authorisation of the treatment, marketed by Roche in the EU, in combination with chemotherapy has been shown to almost double the amount of CLL patients who achieve complete remission compared to chemotherapy alone.

Results of the REACH trial showed that rituximab in combination with chemotherapy halted the progression of the disease by ten months longer than chemotherapy alone in patients who had either been treated without adequate response or whose cancer had returned.

Royal Liverpool University consultant haematologist Professor Andrew Pettitt said that the partnering of rituximab with chemotherapy is one of the most significant advances seen in this type of leukaemia.

“The ultimate goal for these patients is to get them back into the best remission possible, and rituximab with chemotherapy achieves this for twice as many patients,” Pettit said.

Rituximab was granted a licence in March 2009 for previously untreated patients. The new licence indication for relapsed and refractory CLL patients ensures that all people living with CLL can now be considered for treatment with rituximab.