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Study: Revolutionary Treatment Returns Normal Life Expectancy to CML Patients

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New research confirmed that a revolutionary drug has transformed a previously fatal leukemia into a manageable chronic disease for many patients. The drug, imatinib (brand name: Gleevec), was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2001 for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a cancer of the white blood cells.

Researchers found patients taking imatinib for CML, who have been in cytogenic remission after two years of treatment, have a mortality rate similar to that of the general population. For patients this provides the first clear evidence that the drug is able to control their cancer in a way that gives them a normal life expectancy. The Long Term Imatinib Effects (ILTE) study was published online March 22, 2011 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Data came from patients from 27 centers in Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “Imatinib represents a new class of cancer drugs and a new way of thinking about cancer. These molecularly targeted drugs are different because they target abnormal proteins that are fundamental to the cancer itself.”

Multiple studies of imatinib have taken place during industry-sponsored clinical trials at medical centers in the United States and other countries. This research was set up to study patients taking the drug as part of their daily lives instead of during clinical trials. Led by Carlo Gambacorti-Passerini, M.D. of the University of Milano Bicocca/San Gerardo Hospital in Monza, Italy, the study followed some 800 patients who were in complete cytogenic remission after two years of taking the drug. The mortality rate for those studied was 4.8 percent, which is similar to what would normally be expected in the general population.

The authors concluded that patients on imatinib “frequently suffer from side effects that are non-serious but can nonetheless reduce their quality of life.” They noted that the findings highlight the “importance of a good relationship between health care providers and patients, where side effects are easily communicated and addressed to reduce/avoid non-compliance.”

In an editorial comment about the study, a leukemia expert from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said the use of imatinib and similar agents "create a platform from which we can entertain the possibility of curing" the disease without a stem cell transplant. B. Douglas Smith, MD, of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, called for research on ways to completely eliminate the small amount of residual disease after treatment with imatinib. “It is now time for clinical and laboratory investigators to build on this platform and work to turn good and great responses into cures," he added.


Gambacorti-Passerini C, Multicenter independent assessment of outcomes in chronic myeloid leukemia patients treated with imatinib. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2011;103(7):553-561. http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/103/7/553.short?rss=1

Smith, B. Douglas, MD, Division of Hematologic Malignancies, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Correspondence, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 201,103 (7): NP. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djr127 http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/103/7/527.full

National Cancer Institute: Gleevec Questions and Answers: http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/qa/2001/gleevecqa

National CML Society: CML Therapies: http://www.nationalcmlsociety.org/living-cml/therapies

Add a Comment5 Comments

i was smoking alot before the diagnose of cml. Now i am taking gleevic So sometime i need to smoke... or to use tobacco >> is it harmful with gleevic??

December 10, 2012 - 1:54am
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger (reply to Arshad Khan)

Smoking is a known cause of cancer. It is harmful with or without any type of medication.

December 10, 2012 - 8:03pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Arshad - It's not easy to hear that you have cancer but one thing you need to understand is that you did not cause this. The initial treatment period can be rough, but it does get better and better with time.

In terms of the cost of your medication, I suggest you contact the Max Foundation http://www.themaxfoundation.org/ which serves CML patients in need internationally.

All the best to you,

December 6, 2012 - 8:54pm
(reply to Pat Elliott)

thanks pat!

December 10, 2012 - 1:48am

hi Pat Elliott ,,, it was going my normal life i have never felt pain or any difficulties in working , studing or walking ,,,But its reality that i was not taking breakfast at morning some time i was careless about my proper time food i was very careless to eat at time. some time to stop my food for 2 days ... and this was going on.....
then i felt that i am losing my wight ,, so i was worried about that situation ...
,,, and at the same time i am a student of Masscommunication ,,, i was writting my thesis somtime for late night ... so not taking food normally and lake of sleeping... and using of tabaco (smoking)... it became my rutien,,,
before 3 weeks i felt that my head is flying (hhahahaahh) and body is not in my control... so then i get fever and i was increase up to 103..104.. then i went hospital...Dr testet my blood for dengue..thypiod,,,malirya.. but it was nagitive ,,,then dr recoment CBC and it was daignose that i have cancer of blood...
when they announced and told me that i have cancer i can,t express my feeling in words i felt that the world which i have made for my life has been demalished and it was feeling like a juge santence a person that he will be hang 2 days after...
.now i am worring only about that glivec is too much highly priced tablets how can i countinue ... plz tell me ?? plz i want life i want life.....
i belong to meddle class familly which pay me to countinue my studies hardly...
from pakistan...swat..kpk...recently ...karachi

December 6, 2012 - 2:59am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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