Rituximab: A New Monoclonal Antibody Therapy for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Cheryl D. Kosits

Mary Callaghan

non-Hodgkin, lymphoma, rituximab, monoclonal antibodies

Purpose/Objectives: To review the use of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), specifically rituximab, in the treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and to describe the nursing management of patients receiving rituximab.

Data Sources: Published articles, abstracts, book chapters, drug manufacturer, lectures, and personal experience with rituximab.

Data Synthesis: NHL ranks sixth among malignancies in incidence and mortality in the United States. The most common subtype, low-grade follicular lymphoma, is considered incurable. Lack of specificity may limit the usefulness of chemotherapy for low-grade follicular NHL. However, MAb therapy may deliver a cytotoxic effect specifically to the targeted cancer cell. Rituximab is the first MAb approved for cancer therapy. Clinical trials indicate that rituximab is efficacious and safe for recurrent or chemotherapy-resistant, B-cell, low-grade NHL. Infusion-related side effects are the most common and can be managed effectively by following the infusion rate recommendations.

Conclusions: Monoclonal antibody therapy is an effective and safe treatment modality for cancer. Infusion-related side effects are managed effectively by following infusion rate recommendations.

Implications for Practice: Nurses need to be knowledgeable about MAb therapy to educate patients and families regarding the mechanism of action and side-effect profiles of these agents, which often differ from those of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Nurses should be familiar with the unique side effects of rituximab and also specific infusion-rate instructions, measures to reduce the incidence of side effects, and criteria for stopping the infusion when necessary.

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