||Conquer Cancer Health News
Researchers report promising results with leukemia treatment
designed to kill cancer cells and not harm
healthy tissues, as conventional
chemotherapy often does, shows strong
promise in tests for patients with chronic
myelogenous leukemia, scientists
announced at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
"What's been so dramatic about this new treatment is that it's a pill people take
daily. We're restoring the patients to very good health," said Dr. Brian Druker,
associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University.
The drug, called STI-571, targets the white blood cells of patients with chronic
myelogenous leukemia (CML). According to the Oregon Cancer Center
Leukemia Program, where Druker conducts his research, less than 20 percent of
patients with CML are cured with current therapies.
In the tests Druker and his associates conducted, 19 of 29 patients responded
positively to the therapy -- meaning their bone-marrow cell abnormalities were
reduced to 15 percent or less.
The apparent lack of adverse side effects is another encouraging aspect of
STI-571, said a leukemia patient participating in the research.
"I started the middle of December," said Sarah Jean Walker of Rome, Georgia,
"and I feel fine, like nothing's wrong and no side effects to speak of, and it's just
By the third month, her bone-marrow cells were normal, she said, "No signs of
Those results are not unusual. Researchers reported in December that of 31
patients, all had a complete normalization of their blood counts, signaling
remission. Six months later, the patients continued to do well.
Also reported at the oncology meeting were developments from clinical trials of
ZD-1839, a treatment similar to the leukemia drug. Researchers have seen
encouraging results in 16 patients with non-small cell lung cancer.
"ZD-1839 is a very promising drug," said Dr. Vincent Miller of the Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "It's rare that we see responses in Phase 1 trials,
but we've seen that with the drug."
"I've had considerable shrinkage of the tumor," said study participant Peggy
Herber, "and I've had a quality of life that's been fine so far, so I keep hoping it
Miller said the new drug is "not a cure-all, not a magic bullet." But, he added, it
offers "a kinder, gentler therapy that may improve the outcome of our patients."
Researchers said this new targeted cancer therapy may work even better when
combined with existing cancer treatments. Studies on that are already underway.
CNN Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland contributed to this report.