Three months is too soon to judge a CML patient's response to Gleevec, researchers find

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Gleevec has been shown to wipe out leukemia cells in 75 percent of the chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients who are treated with it. What oncologists haven't known is how long patients should take Gleevec before its effectiveness can be gauged. A new study to be presented at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 45th Annual Meeting on Monday, Dec. 8, sheds light on the question.

"This data tells us how long a patient should take Gleevec before we measure how well it's fighting the CML. This is important in helping us know when during treatment to decide if Gleevec is the best treatment or if a new approach would be better," said Brian Druker, M.D., the study's lead author. He is the JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research at the OHSU Cancer Institute and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Druker studies the molecular origin of CML as a means to develop the most effective treatments. Using this approach, Druker developed Gleevec to treat CML, a malignant cancer of the bone marrow in which the body overproduces cancerous white blood cells. Gleevec targets the cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed, producing little or no side effects. The blood counts of virtually all CML patients treated with the drug have returned to normal.

For this study, researchers sought to determine how long Gleevec should be given to accurately gauge a patient's response. To accomplish this, they examined data from a randomized study of 553 newly diagnosed chronic phase patients comparing Gleevec, also known as imatinib, with traditional combination therapy (interferon and cytosine arabinoside).

Scientists first studied whether a CML patient's response to Gleevec is related to a patient's survival without progression of the disease. To do this, they measured the cytogenetic response, which, in this case, refers to how many bone marrow cells contain the Philadelphia chromosome. The Philadelphia c

Contact: Rachel MacKnight
Oregon Health & Science University

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