A new treatment may offer hope for blood cancer patients whose disease has spread to their brains or spines.
Researchers say that an intensive combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy may double the remission time for these patients.
Blood cancer is a condition that affects around 40,000 people in the UK every year.
The team hopes the findings could help in changing the international guidelines on how to treat patients after their cancer spreads.
In a study part-funded by Cancer Research UK, researchers have found the treatment regime was more effective in patients who had lymphoma – a type of blood cancer – where the disease had already spread when first diagnosed.
This was when compared with those who had previously been treated for lymphoma and the disease had spread after their cancer had returned.
The researchers said their findings, published in the journal Lancet Haematology, could help in changing the international guidelines on how to treat patients after their lymphoma spreads to their brain or spine, known as secondary central nervous system lymphoma.
While secondary central nervous system lymphoma is rare, it can potentially be lethal.
A team of researchers led by Dr Kate Cwynarski from University College London Hospital in the UK, and Professor Andres Ferreri in Milan, Italy, assessed 75 patients across four countries.
Known as the Marietta study, it is thought to be the largest clinical trial ever to look at secondary central nervous system lymphoma.
Patients on the trial received a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy drugs in treatment regimens, known as Matrix and Rice.
It included three courses of Matrix followed by three courses of Rice, before a stem cell transplant using cells taken from the patients themselves.
Of the 75 patients assessed, 32 were initially diagnosed when their lymphoma had already spread to their brain or spine and had not received treatment, and 43 had previously been treated for lymphoma and the disease had spread after their cancer came back.
The researchers said the intensive Matrix/Rice treatment prevented the cancer from worsening in 42 (58%) of the patients for at least a year after registering to take part in the trial.