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New approach to leukemia chemotherapy -- is a cure in sight?
Date:3/30/2011

Speaking at the UK National Stem Cell Network conference in York later today (31 March), Professor Tessa Holyoake from the University of Glasgow will discuss a brand new approach to treating chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) in which a small number of cancer cells persist despite effective therapy thus preventing cure.

CML is a type of blood cancer caused by the infamous "Philadelphia Chromosome" genetic abnormality. It is usually treated using a class of drugs called Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors and in the majority of cases this treatment is successful, with around 90% of patients recovering from the disease. However in the majority of patients a subset of cancer cells CML stem cells are resistant to Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors.

"At the moment we are working with 9 patients who still have low level evidence of CML despite Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor treatment. They are helping us to test the use, in principle, of a new type of drug that specifically deals with the resistant CML stem cells," said Professor Holyoake.

"The drug we are using in the trial is hydroxychloroquine a well established antimalarial drug that has been used commonly since the 1950s and is also used in rheumatoid arthritis. This will allow us to test the principle of using similar drugs to treat CML patients.

"Unfortunately hydroxychloroquine may not be suitable for very long term treatment because of side effects. In particular there is a very low risk of temporary or permanent eye problems. In our trial the patients will take the drug for up to 12 months with very close monitoring of their eye health, which will allow us to intervene at the very earliest sign of an adverse effect," Professor Holyoake continued.

The patients in the trial have already taken a Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor drug for at least a year, which has reduced the number of cancer cells in their blood to a very low level.

Professor Holyoake's team discovered that CML stem
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Contact: Mike Davies
mike.davies@bbsrc.ac.uk
01-793-414-694
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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