New Options for Treating Leukemia

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Leukemia is cancer of the blood forming tissue in the body, including bone marrow and the lymphatic system.

Treating it can be a challenge, but new options are providing some hope that we can change that.

"There is a new oral agent, which is very active for almost all forms of Chronic Myloid Leukemia and also in drug resistant Acute Lyphasitic Leukemia,” says Steven Mamus M.D.

This information was recently released at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology, and there is more good news. "I think the big news is that we now have at least five drugs for Chronic Myloid Leukemia, which are oral agents, which specifically target a gene mutation, which is specific for Chronic Myloid Leukemia has extremely high response rates," says Mamus.

CML Patient Andrew Eezell is on Spycal, one of the oral agent and targeted therapies. “I don’t feel any different, I was looking at the side effects that you're supposed to have and I was expecting it to be a lot worse than it is, but I don’t feel any kind of side effects.”

Eezel was recently diagnosed, but how do these new drugs affect others? “These oral agents are active even in patients with the most aggressive form of the chronic Myloid Leukemia,” says Mamus.

19-year-old cancer warrior Dana Kulbresh described the side effects from the chemotherapies she received at the age of three. “You'll be really tired, you'll probably feel really sick. At least for me, because I was at such as young age, what really impacted me the most was that I couldn’t go out there and hang out with all my friends.”

She says treatment has come a long way since she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. “Never give up definitely find yours support system within your family, your friends it is a tough situation but you can do it. I promise you, if I can do it anyone can do it.”

Mamus says there wasn’t much hope for those diagnosed years ago. "Well when I was a medical student 30 years ago Chronic Myloid Leukemia was uniformly fatal unless you had a bone marrow transplant…100 percent fatality rate.”

But now he says there are five possibly six drugs approved by the FDA that can control the illness. “In a most recent study done in patients with drug resistant Chronic Myloid Leaukemia who had proven drug resistance, response rates were one hundred percent with the oral agent.”

While there is still no cure, Mamus said that he feels the oral agents will continue to get better over time and be the standard rather than the exception.