Breakthrough New Therapy Uses Antibody-Targeted Chemotherapy To Fight Leukemia

Scientists presented promising data today at the 35th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) on the use of a pioneering drug technology known as "antibody-targeted chemotherapy" to fight acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) - a virulent and often fatal form of cancer. The experimental agent, CMA-676, induces remission in a significant proportion of patients with few serious side effects. CMA-676 represents the first successful application of antibody-targeted chemotherapy.

AML is an aggressive, life-threatening disease in which certain white blood cells become cancerous and rapidly replace normal bone marrow and blood cells. AML is among the most serious forms of adult leukemia, with a relatively high fatality rate. Most patients require intensive chemotherapy to achieve complete remission, and some also must undergo bone marrow transplants. Up to half of patients with AML, even after such intensive treatment, have residual leukemic cells or experience a relapse.

Because current chemotherapy drugs to treat AML are non-specific - destroying good as well as bad cells - patients receiving standard chemotherapy tend to become very sick. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in collaboration with scientists from thirteen leading leukemia centers, including University of Chicago Medical Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, are working with Wyeth-Ayerst Research and Celltech PLC to study CMA-676, an antibody-drug conjugate that delivers treatment directly to the leukemia cells.

The specificity of the conjugate lies in the antibody, which recognizes a cell-surface molecule that is abundant on AML cells. Importantly, however, the cell surface molecule is absent from normal blood stem cells, the seeds from which normal blood and immune cells originate. Specially engineered to carry a novel and extremely potent chemotherapy agent known as calicheamic

Contact: Susan Edmonds
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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