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Gleevec gets hopeful results

The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, Gleevec, for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia, a form of cancer that affects about 4,500 people in the USA each year. A study supports Gleevec's image as a potential cure for this kind of cancer, which, although cases are rare, can be deadly. //

A new study adds to the evidence suggesting that a heavily publicized drug treatment for a type of leukemia may allow patients to live longer than expected. Experts say the drug, made by Novartis Pharmaceuticals also holds promise for the treatment of lung cancer, prostate cancer and a form of stomach cancer.

In the longest study of the drug so far, researchers studied 532 patients with chronic leukemia. They all had received the standard drug, interferon, but after six months their cancer had gotten worse. The patients were switched to Gleevec, which they took once a day. After 18 months, the researchers could find no visible sign of the genetic abnormality that causes the disease in 41% of the patients.

That genetic flaw leads to the production of a protein that allows white cells in the blood and in the bone marrow to run out of control. Gleevec works by blocking the action of that protein.

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