Monday 24 September 2012

What was the first antibody treatment like?

A couple of weeks ago, I had the first dose of the antibody treatment (Brentuximab Vedotin) in one of the hospital wards; Having the antibody treatment there allowed me to be monitored more closely and over a longer period, just in case I had any kind of reaction to it and consequently needed to stay-in overnight. In total, it took about two and a half hours to administer intravenously (via IV), and I only needed to stay for another couple of hours afterwards before I could go home, as I was feeling fine. It was actually a long day at the hospital though, as I had the usual check-up routine to go through in the morning, and an x-ray shortly after lunch (just for comparison purposes at a later date), before starting the antibody treatment mid-afternoon.

As you may remember from an earlier post, I was expecting to spend maybe a day or two in the hospital ward, as that was how it was initially described to me, but that turned-out not to be necessary in the end, which was a bonus. The hospital where I'm being treated have to date only used this particular antibody treatment with three of their patients (including myself), and one of the others actually had it administered at another hospital, so it is still quite new to everyone really; I get the impression that until it has been used with a few more patients the best setting etc for this antibody treatment, in particular the first dose, is not really finalised/known.

It seems that the first dose of this antibody treatment is typically given a little differently to subsequent doses, i.e. more cautiously, as I was given some saline solution to ensure that I was well hydrated and the dose was administered at a slow speed initially, before gradually being increased to what will become the normal rate for subsequent doses; The rationale behind all of this being to reduce the severity of any reaction, thus enabling it to be treated more easily should that prove necessary. I was also given some other medications (a steroid, an antihistamine, and some paracetamol), which I will have with the subsequent doses too, as they help to minimise any reaction, as well as treat it should there actually be one.

The antihistamine did make me feel a bit drowsy for a couple of hours, but other than that I'm yet to notice any side effects from the antibody treatment, so in that respect it definitely beats any of the chemotherapy treatments that I've had to date. Of course, whether I will start to experience some side effects further down the line, only time will tell, but in the mean time it is just nice to have a treatment that doesn't make me feel worse than the disease. The real question though is whether it is actually killing those cancerous cells, which is hard to say when you feel fine, so unfortunately I won't know the answer to that one until I've had a number of doses, and further tests have been performed to assess how well it is working (if at all).

The plan going forward is for the remaining antibody treatments to be given as an outpatient, and the dose itself to be administered in half an hour without any saline solution beforehand, so hopefully that means I won't be spending anywhere near as much time in hospital for the next few months. Assuming the antibody treatment is working well enough, which will be judged based on the activity (or lack thereof) shown on the PET scan I will have after six doses, then a decision will be made about how many more doses I need to achieve the desired response, as well as to keep the disease under control whilst waiting for the Allogeneic (from a donor) Stem Cell Transplant. During that final stage of the treatment plan, I will get to spend plenty of time in hospital, so I can always look forward to that!

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