(RxWiki News) Elderly patients with leukemia may not be able to tolerate chemotherapy as well as they once could, or simply may not want to deal with the serious side effects anymore.
Early trials with an experimental drug ibrutinib have been successful, showing few side effects and high survival rates in patients over the age of 65.
"Ask your oncologist about clinical trials."
In the early testing of ibrutinib, researchers from Ohio State University found 65 percent of patients showed improvement in their symptoms, and overall, 93 percent of patients did not have worse symptoms, a year after starting treatment.
Ibrutinib specifically targets a protein important in the development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a leukemia that happens more frequently in elderly patients.
So far, effective treatments for CLL are not available.
John C. Byrd, MD, a specialist in treating CLL, was one of the authors of the study who presented their findings to the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
"This interim report indicates that older patients respond well to this oral, targeted therapy, which lacks many of the side effects of chemotherapy and produces a quite dramatic one-year progression-free survival," states Dr. Byrd.
"The high overall response rate and lack of side effects suggests that ibrutinib deserves further study as a first-line treatment in elderly CLL patients," Dr. Byrd concluded.
The study used 31 patients over 65 with CLL, who would normally be given a stem cell transplant, including chemotherapy. Of the 31 patients, 26 were given a dose of 420 milligrams and 5 patients got a double dose of ibrutinib.
First developed in 2007 by Celera Genomics, ibrutinib is still experimental and in the very first stages of testing.
Study results presented at research conferences prior to publication in a peer-reviewed journal are considered preliminary.
No financial disclosures were made by the researchers.