Gleevec shows promise in treating another form of leukemia

December 09, 2003

SAN DIEGO -- Gleevec®, which has produced striking results in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), is now demonstrating encouraging benefits in treating a different blood cancer, a type of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).

Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have found that when Gleevec is paired with high-dose chemotherapy, patients with Philadelphia-positive ALL have a more durable response than if they were treated with the standard therapy.

The Philadelphia-positive subtype, which accounts for one-fifth of ALL diagnoses, is extremely difficult to treat. Typically, two-year survival is only 12 percent to 28 percent following use of standard or high-dose chemotherapy, respectively, but is somewhat higher if a stem cell rescue is also used for patients who have a matched donor.

In a small study being reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the researchers found that 23 of 24 patients using Gleevec with high-dose chemotherapy had a complete response after a single three-week course, and the remissions have, so far, lasted up to 29 months after treatment.

To date, the two-year disease-free survival is 85 percent says the study's lead author, Deborah Thomas, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Leukemia.

"This is a promising treatment that has provided very durable responses, but we need to accrue more patients with a longer follow-up before we can recommend the treatment universally," she says.

Both CML and this type of ALL are caused by a break in the so-called "Philadelphia" chromosome, named after the city where the abnormality was discovered. The defect arises when a portion of chromosome 9 exchanges genetic material with chromosome 22, causing the two genes to locate next to each other and jointly produce an abnormal protein that results in excessive production of white blood cells. The difference between CML and Philadelphia-positive ALL is the size of the protein produced by the translocated genes, but many of the basic mechanisms, as well as the course of the disease and the symptoms are the same, says Thomas.

Gleevec blocks production of the abnormal protein, thereby preventing the growth and reducing the number of abnormal blood cells.

While the drug works in CML without use of additional therapy, earlier studies of Gleevec as a single agent in previously treated Philadelphia-positive ALL did not show a lasting benefit. The study by M. D. Anderson researchers, however, suggests that concurrent use of the two therapies produces a synergistic effect that produces a dramatic response, says Thomas.

She notes that adding Gleevec to the treatment does not appear to add toxicity.

Thomas notes that while the majority of patients in the study have achieved remission without the use of a stem cell transplant, "it is too early to say that we may be able to forego stem cell rescue," she says.
Contact: Julie Penne, 713-792-0655;
Laura Sussman, 713-792-0655;

University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Related Leukemia Articles from Brightsurf:

New therapeutic approach against leukemia
Using an RNA molecule complex, researchers can prevent retention of cancer stem cell in their tumor supporting niche

Nanoparticle for overcoming leukemia treatment resistance
One of the largest problems with cancer treatment is the development of resistance to anticancer therapies.

Key gene in leukemia discovered
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most common forms of blood cancer among adults and is associated with a low survival rate, and leads to the inhibition of normal blood formation.

Vitamin B6, leukemia's deadly addiction
Researchers from CSHL and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have discovered how Acute Myeloid Leukemia is addicted to vitamin B6.

Artificial intelligence tracks down leukemia
Artificial intelligence can detect one of the most common forms of blood cancer - acute myeloid leukemia -- with high reliability.

Milestone reached in new leukemia drug
Using a chemical compound called YKL-05-099, a team of cancer researchers from CSHL and the Dana Farber Institute was able to target the Salt-Inducible Kinase 3 (SIK3) pathway and extend survival in mice with MLL leukemia.

The drug combination effective against bovine leukemia
Scientists have succeeded in reducing levels of the bovine leukemia virus (BLV) in cows with severe infections by combining an immune checkpoint inhibitor and an enzyme inhibitor.

Towards a safer treatment for leukemia
An international team of researchers at VIB-KU Leuven, Belgium, the UK Dementia Institute and the Children's Cancer Institute, Australia, have found a safer treatment for a specific type of leukemia.

Research paves way for new source for leukemia drug
Chemistry researchers have patented a method for making anti-leukemia compounds that until now have only been available via an Asian tree that produces them.

An atlas of an aggressive leukemia
A team of researchers led by Bradley Bernstein at the Ludwig Center at Harvard has used single-cell technologies and machine learning to create a detailed 'atlas of cell states' for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that could help improve treatment of the aggressive cancer.

Read More: Leukemia News and Leukemia Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to