The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week approved a new drug for treating follicular lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma most likely to affect patients over age 60.

The new drug, Copanlisib, received accelerated approval from the FDA in a bid to help patients with follicular lymphoma who have relapsed after attempting at least two systemic therapies to treat the cancer.

“For patients with relapsed follicular lymphoma, the cancer often comes back even after multiple treatments,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in an announcement.

“Options are limited for these patients and today’s approval provides an additional choice for treatment, filling an unmet need for them.”

Follicular lymphoma is a form of blood cancer that affects lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that is crucial to the body’s immune system. The sick white blood cells end up traveling to the lymph nodes, lymph tissue, the spleen, thymus, tonsils and bone marrow, where they can form tumors.

Follicular lymphoma is known as a ‘slow growing’ type of non-Hodgkin's cancer. In practical terms, that means patients often defer treatment until the cancer begins causing problems. It typically cannot be cured, but many patients respond well to treatment and live disease-free for years afterward.

For those who do not respond well to treatments, Copanlisib offers one more option. According to the FDA, the drug is a kinase inhibitor that works by blocking several enzymes that promote cell growth. It will be brought to market by Bayer under the brand name Aliqopa.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 72,240 patients will be diagnosed with some form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2017. The agency also estimates that 20,140 patients will die from the disease, representing 3.4% of all cancer deaths.