Targeted Therapy Hits the Mark

Chronic myeloid leukemia responds to Gleevec after interferon fails

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

(RxWiki News) People with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) have been treated with interferon therapy for years, but this treatment can sometimes fail. And when it does, a targeted therapy hits the mark, offering these patients long-term benefits.

A recently published study has demonstrated that when patients with CML do not respond to interferon treatments, a targeted therapy Gleevec (imatinib) delivers benefits that can last for years.

"Research treatment therapies available for your condition."

Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, led by Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., conducted research to learn just how long Gleevec provides benefits to patients who had switched from interferon.

Gleevec, one of the first targeted therapies, has totally transformed the treatment and outlook of CML. The medication blocks a protein in a gene that causes the cancer to survive and grow.

As many as 93 percent of patients who receive Gleevec as their first CML treatment are alive at least eight years. Before this medication was available, the outlook for patients averaged three to six years.

While Gleevec has become the standard of care for individuals newly diagnosed with CML, roughly 15,000 to 20,000 Americans start on the drug after the previous standard - interferon - stops working. 

For this research, Dr. Kantarjian and colleagues examined how 368 CML patients responded to Gleevec after interferon was no longer effective.

An estimated 68 percent of patients on Gleevec lived at least 10 years. Before Gleevec was available, only about 20-30 percent of these patients would have lived this long after interferon stopped working for them.

As a result of these findings, Gleevec can help patients whose interferon therapy has failed, according to the authors.

This study was published February 27, 2012 online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

This study was supported by a grant  from the National Institutes of Health and the Betty Foster Leukemia Research Fund.

Authors Hagop Kantarjian, M.D. and Jorge Cortes, M.D. are consultants for Gleevec manufacturer. Novartis, and have research funding from Novartis, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer. Elias Jabbour, M.D. is a speaker for Novartis.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 28, 2012
Last Updated:
November 8, 2012