OHSU Leads Discussion of Gleevec Therapy

12/11/01    ORLANDO, Fla.

New data on chronic myelogenous leukemia patients retains hope for long-term remission

Oregon Health & Science University researchers presented 34 different studies on the drug Gleevec (formerly STI571) at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 7 - 11. Among the discussions was an update today on worldwide clinical trials of the drug on chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patients.

Researchers at several institutions, including OHSU, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Research Center at UCLA, today presented data showing that in 532 chronic phase CML patients on Gleevec, 95 percent saw their white blood cell counts return to normal (hematologic remission) for up to two years. Also, about 60 percent of those patients experienced a major cytogenetic response and 41 percent had a complete cytogenetic response, meaning they had no signs of the disease cells remaining in their bone marrow. Researchers cautioned that it is still too early to label Gleevec a cure for these patients.

CML is one of four common forms of leukemia and affects approximately 5,000 Americans, mostly adults, each year. Gleevec was developed by Novartis in collaboration with Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Cancer Institute Leukemia Center. The drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May 2001 for treatment of CML after failure of interferon therapy.

Another presentation of data on 47 newly diagnosed CML patients showed that 98 percent of patients achieved hematologic response after three months of treatment, while 77 percent of those patients achieved complete or major cytogenetic response. "Clearly what this data shows is that Gleevec can be used successfully as a first-line therapy for newly diagnosed CML patients," said Druker. In fact, use of Gleevec in various types of patients at different doses was the subject of a well-attended presentation led by Druker titled "STI571: Practical Aspects of Administration."

Among the other studies being presented, Gary Jones, M.D., pediatric oncologist at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, highlighted a study of 11 pediatric patients who had taken Gleevec, showing most had major cytogenetic responses, as seen in adults. Druker and Michael O'Dwyer, M.D., also of the OHSU Cancer Institute Leukemia Center, presented data on patients who took combination therapies of Gleevec and Ara-C, and Gleevec and interferon, showing these patients experienced increased response, but generally had lower overall cytogenetic responses than the chronic phase CML group.

Today Druker was named recipient of the 2001 William Dameshek Prize, the organization's premier award for contributions to hematology research.