Older AML patients show promising response in drug study

December 8, 2008

Older patients with acute myloid leukemia (AML) who were once told that nothing could be done for them are finding new hope – and life – through a clinical trial at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

Preliminary findings of the phase II study suggest that older, previously untreated AML patients can achieve complete remission at a higher than expected rate when treated with the drug decitabine using a novel dosing schedule.

"This study could provide a new treatment paradigm for elderly patients with AML," says co-author Dr. John Byrd, associate director of translational research at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

The study will be a poster presentation at the 50th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Francisco on Monday (12/8).

About 13,300 new cases of AML are expected this year in the United States. It is a rapidly progressive disease that results in the accumulation of immature, functionless cells in the marrow and blood, leaving the body unable to fight infections or produce enough normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The disease primarily affects people age 60 and older and is the second most common form of leukemia in adults.

Most elderly AML patients diagnosed today are offered only supportive care because their bodies are believed to be too weak to withstand the effects of chemotherapy treatment, says principal investigator Dr. William Blum, a hematologist and oncologist and researcher at Ohio State.

"The treatment of AML is difficult in anybody, but particularly for older patients who don't tolerate the 'thunderbolt' of intensive chemotherapy well," says Blum. "Some of the patients we are treating successfully had previously been told by other physicians to 'go home and die.' They were judged not to be candidates for any treatment at all because they likely would not survive the traditional, harsh chemotherapy approach."

"The development of a less toxic therapy may enable this 'silent majority' of patients who never receive treatment today to actually benefit from prolonged remissions with improved quality and length of life, without paying the price exacted by today's intensive therapy regimens," says Blum.

This ongoing study involves 33 patients age 60 to 83. A total of 58 percent of patients responded, including 42 percent who achieved complete remission. In some cases, Blum says, patients who achieved remission were then able to receive bone marrow transplants designed to further improve their chances for cure, as part of another clinical trial of transplantation specifically designed for older AML patients.

On the decitabine trial, patients received the intravenous drug for one hour a day for 10 consecutive days each month until the leukemia was gone. Subsequent cycles of the drug were given for three to five days, customized for each patient based on clinical response or toxicity.

"Results have been extremely promising, with high remission rates," says senior investigator Dr. Guido Marcucci, a researcher and medical oncologist at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. "This research reveals the potential for a paradigm shift in the treatment of AML away from highly toxic drugs to a much less toxic alternative."

Source: Ohio State University Medical Center

Explore further: Team develops new approach to study long non-coding RNAs

Related Stories

Team develops new approach to study long non-coding RNAs

April 19, 2018
Until recently, scientific research concentrated almost exclusively on the 2 percent of the genome's protein coding regions, virtually ignoring the other 98 percent - a vast universe of non-coding genetic material previously ...

Researchers identify way to overcome chemotherapy-resistant leukaemia

March 22, 2018
AML is a highly aggressive form of blood cancer in which immature white blood cells rapidly grow out of control, restricting the production of healthy blood cells. Over 2,400 people are diagnosed with AML each year in the ...

Probing RNA epigenetics and chromatin structures to predict drug resistance in leukemia

March 22, 2018
Drug resistance is a major obstacle to effective treatment for patients with cancer and leukemia. Epigenetic modifying drugs have been proven effective for some patients with hematologic malignancies, such as myelodysplastic ...

Novel drug shows promise against acute myeloid leukemia

April 11, 2018
In a study published online today in Science Translational Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine researchers report that an experimental peptide (small protein) drug shows promise against the often-lethal cancer acute ...

New strategy to target transcription factor STAT5 to combat leukaemia

February 23, 2018
Acute myeloid leukaemia is the most common type of acute cancer of the blood and bone marrow in adults. AML progresses quickly and only 26 percent of the patients survive longer than five years as resistance against established ...

New insights into treating a rare leukemia

February 27, 2018
A study at Children's Hospital Los Angeles is shedding new light on the best therapeutic approach for a rare and aggressive leukemia called mixed phenotype acute leukemia (MPAL).

Recommended for you

Study predicts 2018 flu vaccine will have 20 percent efficacy

April 19, 2018
A Rice University study predicts that this fall's flu vaccine—a new H3N2 formulation for the first time since 2015—will likely have the same reduced efficacy against the dominant circulating strain of influenza A as the ...

Zika presents hot spots in brains of chicken embryos

April 19, 2018
Zika prefers certain "hot spots" in the brains of chicken embryos, offering insight into how brain development is affected by the virus.

Low-cost anti-hookworm drug boosts female farmers' physical fitness

April 19, 2018
Impoverished female farm workers infected with intestinal parasites known as hookworms saw significant improvements in physical fitness when they were treated with a low-cost deworming drug. The benefits were seen even in ...

Super-superbug clones invade Gulf States

April 18, 2018
A new wave of highly antibiotic resistant superbugs has been found in the Middle East Gulf States, discovered by University of Queensland researchers.

Of mice and disease: Antibiotic-resistant bacteria discovered in NYC house mice

April 17, 2018
A study by scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health finds New York City house mice carry bacteria responsible for mild to life-threatening gastroenteritis ...

Discovery explains how the chickenpox and shingles virus remains dormant

April 16, 2018
A research team led by UCL and Erasmus University has found a missing piece to the puzzle of why the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles can remain dormant for decades in human cells.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.