Katie K. was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) just three weeks after celebrating her 6th birthday. Concerned about a high fever, Katie’s mom had taken her to a pediatrician who ran some routine tests. The results, unfortunately, were nowhere near routine.
Katie’s white blood cell count was 148,000 and climbing. A normal white cell count for adults is 4,500 to 11,000. In children, the count can be slightly higher. Further testing showed Katie had CML, a cancer of the blood typically found in adults. She was referred to F. Leonard Johnson, M.D., at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
After consulting Katie’s parents and his colleagues, Dr. Johnson prescribed Gleevec, a targeted cancer pill developed by Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. Katie began taking Gleevec in July 2001 and by February 2002 there was no detectable leukemia in her body.
Today Katie, 15, is cancer-free and living the life of a happy, healthy young adult.
OHSU Doernbecher was the first hospital in the world to test the effectiveness of Gleevec in children. Gleevec works by targeting and turning off specific proteins in cancer cells that drive the growth of tumors while leaving healthy cells alone. Before Gleevec, only half of patients with CML survived their disease. Now, nearly 90 percent of people with CML survive.