AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands, March 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
The word 'leukemia' fills people with awe and foreboding. Things have changed, however, for the better. In children who have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) the cure rate is about 90%. In adults the story is not so good. The predominant type of leukemia in adults is Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and most patients are over 60 years of age. Although age was felt to be an important factor in the poor responses seen in adults, it is now clear that Acute Leukemia in older patients is a different disease which is intrinsically resistant to traditional chemotherapy.
What is new? Current investigations are aimed at evaluating the use of monoclonal antibodies (mAB). These mABs bind to specific molecules (antigens) found on leukemic cells. This results in immune destruction of the leukemic cells. Other drugs which alter the methylation status of DNA, known as hypomethylating agents, and drugs which inhibit intracellular events within the leukemic cells are being investigated. Thus it is hoped to reduce the toxicity associated with traditional chemotherapy and increase the efficacy of treatment.
Likewise in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, a disease of adults, a humanised mAB against CD20 and hypomethylating agents are being investigated. Newer drugs which are Tyrosine Kinase inhibitors or inhibit P13K delta are generating a lot of interest, not least because of the success of Tyrosine Kinase inhibitors in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. These drugs are attractive because they are available orally, which is very important to patients, and do not cause bone marrow suppression. Results from studies exploring these new agents will be presented during the 18th Congress of EHA. Hopefully large scale clinical trials with newer agents will prove efficacious and have limited toxicity in both of these chronic leukemias.
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SOURCE European Hematology Association