Irvine, Calif. In people with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), the drug Imatinib has been shown to drive cancer into remission, but the disease often returns when treatment is stopped. New research by UC Irvine scientists indicates that Imatinib could cure CML under certain circumstances if it is taken over a long enough period of time.
Mathematician Natalia Komarova and biologist Dominik Wodarz also developed a tool that eventually could help doctors determine which combination of drugs would be most beneficial to a CML patient, and they determined why, in some cases, Imatinib does not block cancer growth. The results of their study will appear Oct. 3 in the journal PLoS ONE.
CML is a quick-progressing cancer that starts in the bone marrow and moves into the blood. The disease proceeds in three stages, the last one characterized by patient survival of only a few months. In 2007, an estimated 4,570 people in the United States will develop CML, and 490 people will die from it, according to the National Cancer Institute, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The drug Imatinib is a promising cancer treatment because it has few side effects, and it specifically targets cancer cells. In their study, the UCI scientists focused on Imatinib and the behavior of cancerous stem cells. Just as normal stem cells maintain organs and a functioning body, cancer stem cells are thought to maintain cancer growth and are tough to kill with treatment.
Many scientists believe that Imatinib can kill regular cancer cells but not stem cells. When treatment ends, the remaining stem cells can produce more cancer cells, thus exacerbating the disease. According to this view, there is no hope to cure CML.
The UCI scientists, however, believe Imatinib can kill cancerous stem cells but not when the stem cells temporarily stop dividing, a state known as quiescence. All cancerous stem cells have the ability to enter the quiescent s
|Contact: Jennifer Fitzenberger|
Public Library of Science