Cancer patients can now get vital treatment in just five minutes instead of two hours after a new injection procedure was trialled by a hospital.

Patients diagnosed with follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a disease that attacks one specific type of infection-fighting cell, previously had rituximab administered via an intravenous drip.

But the trial at Southampton General Hospital can now deliver a two-hour dose of drugs in around five minutes.

The procedure, which is just as effective, should now be rolled out nationwide.

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Around 4,000 people, mainly in their 60s, are diagnosed with the disease in the UK every year and the majority of them will receive the drug, which targets and destroys specific proteins on the surface of cancerous cells, alongside chemotherapy to help eliminate all signs of the lymphoma and induce remission.

At the moment, most sufferers receive both treatments via a drip in a four-hour session once every three weeks.

When the six-month course of chemotherapy ends, patients often require a further two years of rituximab given over two hours once every eight weeks.

Results of the international study showed that giving the drug by a quick injection under the skin was as safe and effective as the conventional intravenous treatment.

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Dr Andrew Davies, a consultant in medical oncology at the hospital who led the study, said: "This is a new formulation of a drug we are very familiar with and have been using for many years and the study demonstrates injection is equivalent to the intravenous drip method.

"In the near future, patients will be able to benefit from shorter, more convenient and potentially less complicated hospital visits, which will greatly reduce administration time for NHL patients and ease the capacity burden in busy chemotherapy day units."

Dr Davies added: "There is a high degree of patient preference and satisfaction with this new formulation of rituximab in Southampton and we hope to see it rolled out nationwide very soon."

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