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Orphan designation

On 20 March 2007, orphan designation (EU/3/07/438) was granted by the European Commission to Serono Europe Limited, United Kingdom, for zanolimumab for the the treatment of peripheral T-cell lymphoma (nodal, other extranodal and leukaemic/disseminated).

The sponsorship was transferred to Genmab A/S, Denmark, in March 2008 and to TenX Biopharma Ltd, United Kingdom, in September 2010.

What are peripheral T-cell lymphomas (nodal, other extranodal and leukaemic/disseminated)?

Peripheral T-cell lymphomas belong to the group of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, which are cancers originating from the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system, and helps fighting infections. It is a complex system made up of organs such as the bone marrow, the thymus (a gland behind the breast bone), the spleen (an organ in the abdomen, near the stomach), and the lymph nodes (or lymph glands, located throughout the body), which are connected by a network of tiny lymphatic vessels. There are two main types of cells, which make up the lymphatic tissue. These cells are called lymphocytes and belong to the broader group of white blood cells. The two types are called B lymphocytes (B cells) and T lymphocytes (T cells). Most lymphocytes start growing in the bone marrow. The T cells go from the bone marrow to the thymus where they continue to mature. Normally, the lymphatic cells grow in a controlled manner. Peripheral T-cell lymphoma is caused by the uncontrolled growth of T-lymphocytes in different stages of maturity. Different types of peripheral T-cell lymphoma have been identified and categorised (nodal, other extranodal and leukaemic/disseminated). Patients most often present with generalised lymph node enlargement, liver enlargement and bone marrow involvement. Peripheral T-cell lymphoma is a serious and life-threatening condition.

What is the estimated number of patients affected by the condition?

At the time of designation, peripheral T-cell lymphoma (nodal, other extranodal and leukaemic / disseminated) affected less than 1 in 10,000 people in the European Union (EU)*. This is equivalent to a total of fewer than 46,000 people, and is below the threshold for orphan designation, which is 5 people in 10,000. This is based on the information provided by the sponsor and the knowledge of the Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products (COMP).

* Disclaimer: For the purpose of the designation, the number of patients affected by the condition is estimated and assessed based on data from the European Union (EU 25), Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. This represents a population of 459,700,000 (Eurostat 2004). This estimate is based on available information and calculations presented by the sponsor at the time of the application.

What treatments are available?

There are currently several medicinal products authorised in the Community for treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The choice of treatment depends in particular on the extension of the disease as well as on the responses to therapies previously prescribed. Although chemotherapy (using medicines to kill cancer cells) is the current standard of care for peripheral T-cell lymphoma, most tumours will come back and then more intensive regimens of several chemotherapeutic agents are given.

Zanolimumab might be of potential significant benefit for the treatment of peripheral T-cell lymphoma because it is expected to act in a different way from other available medicines. This assumption will have to be confirmed at the time of marketing authorisation. This will be necessary to maintain the orphan status.

How is this medicine expected to work?

Most of the cells that grow in peripheral T-cell lymphomas have a protein on the outer surface of the cell, called CD4; therefore, these cells are known as CD4 positive cells. Immunoglobulins are proteins present in the blood and are involved in the immune response against foreign substances (antigens). The product is a human immunoglobulin (of the IgG1κ class) that has the capacity to bind the CD4 protein. By binding to the CD4 protein on the surface of the T-cells, the product induces the death of the CD4-positive cells. This is expected to result in destruction of the cells that form the lymphoma.

What is the stage of development of this medicinal product?

At the time of submission of the application for orphan designation, clinical trials in patients with peripheral T cell lymphoma were ongoing.

Zanolimumab was not authorised anywhere worldwide for peripheral T-cell lymphoma (nodal, other extranodal and leukaemic/disseminated) or designated as orphan medicinal product elsewhere for this condition, at the time of submission.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 of 16 December 1999, the COMP adopted a positive opinion on 7 February 2007 recommending the granting of this designation.

Opinions on orphan medicinal product designations are based on the following three criteria
  • the seriousness of the condition;
  • the existence of alternative methods of diagnosis, prevention or treatment;
  • either the rarity of the condition (affecting not more than 5 in 10,000 people in the EU) or insufficient returns on investment.

Designated orphan medicinal products are products that are still under investigation and are considered for orphan designation on the basis of potential activity. An orphan designation is not a marketing authorisation. As a consequence, demonstration of quality, safety and efficacy is necessary before a product can be granted a marketing authorisation

Key facts

Product details for <p>Zanolimumab</p>
Active substanceZanolimumab
Medicine Name
Disease/conditionTreatment of peripheral T-cell lymphoma (nodal, other extranodal and leukaemic/disseminated)
Date of decision20/03/2007
Orphan decision numberEU/3/07/438

Review of designation

Sponsor’s contact details:

TenX Biopharma Ltd
19-20 Bourne Court
Southend Road
Woodford Green
Essex IG8 8HD
United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 20 3371 7136
Telefax: +44 20 3014 9480

Patients’ associations contact points:

For contact details of patients’ organisations whose activities are targeted at rare diseases see:

  • Orphanet, a database containing information on rare diseases which includes a directory of patients’ organisations registered in Europe.
  • European Organisation for Rare Diseases (EURORDIS), a non-governmental alliance of patient organisations and individuals active in the field of rare diseases.