BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Patients suffering from chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) were condemned to terrible pain and rapid death in most of the cases. This had been happening until 2001, when a cancer drug was introduced. The drug, imatinib mesylate, is being sold under the name of Gleevec.
Doctors regarded Gleevec as a wonder treatment for cancer patients with CML, which is a type of blood cancer affecting around 5,000 Americans every year. Before the introduction of the drug and its approval by the FDA, there was less than one in five patients who could survive for five years after the diagnosis.
Now, a new study appeared in the New England Journal Medicine and it found that Gleevec can help CML patients survive for ten years or more after their diagnosis. Researchers found that the drug could help keep the cancer away if the person underwent treatment for ten years, without posing any other risks.
Andreas Hochhaus, one of the researchers from Jena University Hospital in Germany, said that the study brings the evidence needed to confirm the efficiency of the drug.
The study involved 500 participants that received Gleevec treatment as their initial therapy. The researchers discovered that more than 83 percent of the patients were still alive ten years after they had begun treatment. This is a significant improvement for a disease like CML with such a low survival rate.
Researchers said that the patients attained an almost normal life expectancy and did not face any additional risks as, when Gleevec was first introduced, it was believed that it might lead to other health problems, such as heart disease.
After 11 years of administering treatments and keeping them under supervision, they discovered that Gleevec remains effective over time and the patients did not experience any side effects.
Brian Druker, one of the researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University Knight Cancer Institute, says that most of the patients that have been undergoing treatment with Gleevec are already in a chronic stage of the disease.
Since now CML patients can survive for decades, the researchers are planning to monitor what other issues these patients might experience and see what age-related or other problems might occur in a chronic stage of CML.
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