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New treatment for specific type of leukemia

Leuven, Belgium Leukemia − or cancer of the bone marrow − strikes some 700 Belgians each year. Chronic Eosinophilic Leukemia (CEL), a specific form of leukemia, is currently treated with Glivec. However, recent research has shown that prolonged usage can cause resistance to Glivec, rendering this chronic form of leukemia untreatable. Researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) connected to the Catholic University of Leuven have now discovered that another drug, Sorafenib (Nexavar), works on patients that have developed this resistance. This finding is not only important for CEL patients, but it also provides a new approach for treating specific forms of leukemia. It is clear from this research that a combination of targeted drugs provides a greater chance of lifelong effective treatment.

Chronic Eosinophilic Leukemia (CEL)
Our body's white blood cells combat foreign intruders (such as viruses and bacteria). However, in chronic leukemia, the cells in the bone marrow that should develop into white blood cells multiply uncontrollably. These blood cells do not function properly, jeopardizing the production of normal blood cells. Among other consequences, this makes patients more susceptible to infections. Chronic leukemia appears in several forms − in CEL, a rare form of leukemia, the excessive increase of eosinophils (a certain type of white blood cell) can cause tissue damage in the heart, the skin, and the central nervous system.

The mechanism behind the cause
Under normal circumstances, our body regulates the production of white blood cells very precisely by means of a targeted activation of tyrosine kinases, which start this production. But sometimes defects in the DNA cause these tyrosine kinases to be active continuously, giving rise to diseases like leukemia. In 2003, Jan Cools and his colleagues under the direction of Peter Marynen, along with colleagues Elizabeth S
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Contact: Sooike Stoops
info@vib.be
329-244-6611
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology
10-May-2006


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