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Cancer Drug Gets New-Use Approval

Rituxan Can Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Washington Post—March 1, 2006

The world’s best-selling cancer drug won federal approval to treat an entirely different disease, rheumatoid arthritis, in a development that doctors called a symbol of their rapidly advancing knowledge of disease biology.

The drug, Rituxan, is among a new group of cancer treatments that are more precise and less toxic than older chemotherapy compounds.

Rituxan is by no means the first drug invented for one disease to be found useful in treating another.  Rituxan illustrates a dawning era in which doctors know enough biology to predict that a drug might be useful in treating several ailments.  It was approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and tests in other immune diseases - including lupus and multiple sclerosis - are underway.

“I think it’s extraordinary,” said Stephen A. Paget, M.D., FACP, FACR, chief of rheumatology at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, a leading center for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.  “It demonstrates what our science is able to do today.”

The new treatments “really take people from a situation that was very frustrating and disturbing to one that is hopeful,” said Paget.  “Where there was an end of the road and you couldn’t go any further, there’s now much more road ahead.”

This article originally appeared in The Washington Post.


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