New Oral Blood Cancer Treatments Bring True Excitement in CLL and CML

December 16, 2012
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Is chemo dead? Maybe not yet, but in some diseases it is fading fast. In 2000 I was one of the early patients to receive FCR for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in a phase II trial, and thousands have followed. The F and the C are chemotherapies and they are not kind to your body. Many patients, including me, have received a long remission and we are, of course, very grateful. But others have not done nearly as well. So the search for better, less toxic cancer treatments has continued.

Is chemo dead? Maybe not yet, but in some diseases it is fading fast. In 2000 I was one of the early patients to receive FCR for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in a phase II trial, and thousands have followed. The F and the C are chemotherapies and they are not kind to your body. Many patients, including me, have received a long remission and we are, of course, very grateful. But others have not done nearly as well. So the search for better, less toxic cancer treatments has continued. Now the research appears to be paying off.

As we reported from the very recent ASH (American Society of Hematology) meeting in Atlanta, CLL leaders like Dr. John Byrd from Ohio State and Jan Burger from MD Anderson were extremely pleased with results from clinical trials of Ibrutinib, a targeted oral therapy, for a wide range of patients, including some with the most difficult to treat forms of the disease. Dr. Byrd was truly excited and other CLL doctors, observing the results, see a new, non-chemo day coming very soon for CLL. Other drugs, most of them pills one can take at home, show great promise, as well.

The excitement doesn’t stop with CLL. A drug that had been known as ponatinib for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) was also reported as a breakthrough medicine. Again, this was a targeted oral therapy, best known for helping CML patients with the resistant T315i mutation, but also seen as a more powerful agent for people with other forms of resistance.

We knew this was big news and was expected to be the validation the FDA needed to give the drug accelerated approval early in 2013. But the FDA, criticized in the past for slow approvals, was watching too, and only days after the news conference at ASH the FDA approved the drug, which now has the brand name of Iclusig.

A Seattle family is very familiar with these developments. Hans Loland entered a Phase I trial after it was discovered that he had the rare T315i mutation, which rendered the standard, approved therapies ineffective. Hans already was familiar with the disease because his best friend had also been diagnosed with CML just months before. The trial showed signs of success, giving Hans and his wife the confidence to have the third child (Cooper) they had always wanted, as he shared in his Powerful Patient video.

Given that there are now six approved and effective treatments for CML you can expect tremendous chatter about which patient should receive which drug, when, and for how long. Stay tuned, as we are committed to following this and other developments closely. Be sure to be signed up for our alerts for the condition that’s most important to you or your loved one so that you can stay informed of these developments with us.

Wishing you and your family the best of health!

Andrew

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