Marathon Against CML Still Not Won

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia cure must remain a research focus says expert

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Remarkable advancements have been made in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. But the race has not yet been won, according to one of the nation's preeminent experts in the field.

Even a few years ago, being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) was life-limiting. Today, 90 percent of patients are alive after five years and longer. By contrast, in the 1960s, most people with CML lived only 3-5 years.

But the road to victory against CML is a long and winding one, according to a commentary by Jorge E. Cortes, M.D., chair of the CML Section at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

"Find out about the latest treatments available for CML."

Dr. Cortes writes in the January 23, 2012 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), that while significant progress has been made, CML can't yet be cured in all patients. And this is a challenge that must be address and resolved, he says.

He says the journey to finding a cure is like a marathon. "The past half century has been an extraordinary run that has us on an excellent pace to not only complete the race to a cure, but to do so in record time," Dr. Cortes writes.

Major developments have included the development of a number of drug therapies - Gleevec (imatinib), Sprycel (dasatinib) and Tasigna (nilotinib).

Also coming online showing positive results as a first-line therapy for newly diagnosed patients is Bosutinib (SKI-606), currently in clinical trials.

This is an impressive arsenal, but Gleevec offers a favorable outcome in only 60 percent of patients. The second-line therapies - Sprycel and Tasigna - work for about half of the people taking it, and 10-15 percent of them will become resistant to the treatments in time, according to Dr. Cortes.

He urges doctors to ensure that their patients are taking their medications. Dr. Cortes also says more research is needed, and health care professionals need to remain focused on the long-term outlook - and race.

He concludes, "Until all patients with chronic myeloid leukemia can have an optimal quality of life while fighting this disease, our marathon is not over."

Dr. Cortes has received consultancy and research funding from CML drug manufacturers: Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis and Pfizer.

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Review Date: 
January 24, 2012
Last Updated:
November 8, 2012