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Arsenic Shown To Induce Cancer Remission

New York, November 5, 1998 -- Arsenic, a notorious poison, may be on the verge of overcoming its bad reputation. Two years ago, Chinese researchers reported that low doses of arsenic trioxide induced remission in patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), prompting physicians in the West to undertake their own pilot study.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have now become the first investigators in the Western world to show that arsenic effectively induces remission in patients who have relapsed with APL, a potentially fatal type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. The findings are reported in the November 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"We now know that arsenic can safely bring patients with APL into remission, which may ultimately give them a second chance at life," said Dr. Raymond P. Warrell, Jr., the senior author of the study and a leukemia specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

In the pilot study, 12 patients who had relapsed from conventional therapy were treated with low doses of arsenic trioxide. Eleven of the 12 patients achieved remission anywhere from 12 to 39 days after treatment started, experiencing only mild side effects.

The single patient who failed to reach remission died from a complication related to the disease five days after arsenic treatment began and could not be evaluated in the study.

Once remission was achieved, each patient received a brief treatment break, which was followed with repeated courses of arsenic trioxide therapy every three to six weeks thereafter. After two cycles of therapy, the investigators conducted additional tests to determine whether any molecular evidence of leukemia remained. Three patients tested positive for molecular evidence of the disease and later relapsed with APL, while eight patients tested negative for molecular evidence of APL and remained in remissions that lasted as long as 10 months. To date, seve
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Contact: Kelli Stauning
stauningk@mskcc.org
212-639-3573
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
4-Nov-1998


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