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Northwestern Memorial Study Tests Cancer Drug on Scleroderma Patients
Date:3/6/2008

Study Seeks Treatment to Address Skin Hardening Affects of the Devastating Disease

CHICAGO, March 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Physicians at Northwestern Memorial Hospital are studying the effects of an anti-cancer drug to treat patients with scleroderma, a rare, incurable autoimmune rheumatic disease that leads to hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues. Scleroderma affects an estimated 300,000 people in the United States and can often attack the lungs, heart, kidneys and intestinal tract, and sometimes lead to death.

The study is the first of its kind to examine if Gleevec, a cancer drug commonly used to treat leukemia, will treat the skin thickness in scleroderma patients by blocking the pathway that causes fibrosis. Patients enrolled in the clinical trial will receive daily oral doses of Gleevec for six months and will be evaluated initially on a weekly basis at Northwestern Memorial, one of only three centers nationwide participating in the study. Others include Johns Hopkins and Boston University Medical Center.

John Varga, MD, rheumatologist at Northwestern Memorial, John and Nancy Hughes Distinguished Professor in Rheumatology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study, said this could be a big step forward for people diagnosed with scleroderma. "Based on recent research performed by investigators at the Feinberg School, Gleevec shows potential efficacy in reducing the abnormal skin changes associated with scleroderma."

The exact cause of Scleroderma, a chronic disease most commonly found in women between the ages of 30 and 40, remains unknown. Through continued research, Northwestern Memorial physicians hope to identify treatments to target the disease and improve the quality of life for patients living with Scleroderma.

"We hope that the use of Gleevec for a sustained period of time will decrease the symptoms of skin hardening, and potentially slow the progression of this devastating disease," adds Dr. Varga.

For more information on the scleroderma Gleevec study at Northwestern, contact Julie Johnson, project coordinator, at (312) 503-2338.

About Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Northwestern Memorial Hospital is one of the country's premier academic medical centers and is the primary teaching hospital of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Northwestern Memorial and its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry have 897 beds along with 1,424 affiliated physicians and 6,464 employees. Northwestern Memorial is recognized for providing state-of-the-art patient care and exemplary clinical and surgical advancements in the areas of cardiothoracic and vascular care, gastroenterology, neurology and neurosurgery, oncology, organ and bone marrow transplantation, and women's health. Northwestern Memorial received the prestigious 2005 National Quality Health Care Award and is listed in eight specialties in U.S. News & World Report's 2007 rankings for "America's Best Hospitals." For seven years running, Northwestern Memorial has been rated among the nation's "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" by Working Mother magazine and has been chosen by Chicagoans for more than a decade as their "most preferred hospital" according to the National Research Corporation's annual survey. Northwestern Memorial carries the Magnet status designation in nursing, the highest recognition possible for patient care and nursing excellence.


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