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Arsenic early in treatment improves survival for leukemia patients
Date:11/11/2010

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 Arsenic, a toxic compound with a reputation as a good tool for committing homicide, has a significant positive effect on the survival of patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), when administered after standard initial treatment, according to a new, multi-center study led by a researcher at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

While arsenic trioxide (As2O3) is known by clinicians to be a highly effective treatment for patients with relapsed APL, its benefit earlier in treatment, after first remission, has remained unknownuntil now.

Researchers with the Cancer and Leukemia Group B, a group of cancer and leukemia researchers funded by the National Cancer Institute, led a study to determine if, by administering arsenic trioxide earlier after a patient has finished standard initial treatment and reached first remission they could improve survival rates. The results were dramatic.

"Patients with APL can achieve remission with standard treatment (chemotherapy plus ATRA, an oral vitamin A-based compound), but it often comes back," said Bayard L. Powell, M.D., a professor of hematology and oncology at Wake Forest Baptist, principal investigator and lead author on the study. "Arsenic trioxide is then used to get them back into remission, often followed by a bone marrow transplant to try to cure the patient. For this study, we used arsenic as an early "consolidation therapy" after the initial standard treatment to essentially, as one of our first patients described, 'seal the deal' the first time around. Not only did the leukemia rarely return in the patients who received the arsenic, those patients also lived longer."

The findings appear in the November 11 issue of Blood.

APL accounts for about 10 to 15 percent of acute myeloid leukemia cases and presents most frequently in young adults. It is associated with a very high risk of severe bleeding com
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Contact: Bonnie Davis
bdavis@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4977
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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