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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 19:56 GMT
100% success for leukaemia drug
The research has excited leading cancer specialists

The success of small-scale trials of a treatment for one form of leukaemia have sparked huge excitement among cancer scientists.

Every one of 31 patients given the compound STI-571 achieved "remission", meaning doctors could not detect the presence of cancer in their bodies.

The drug worked against chronic myeloid leukaemia, a form of blood cancer which slowly progresses for several years before switching to a more aggressive form.

It works by blocking the action of a key enzyme which appears to trigger the cancerous changes.

It could reduce the need for unpleasant chemotherapy
It differs from conventional chemotherapy in that it can more closely target affected cells, thus reducing the unpleasant and debilitating side effects of treatment.

Although the patients have, in the short term, achieved remission from the disease, the longer term outcomes are not yet known.

However, an authority on leukaemia, Professor John Goldman, who will be heading a larger-scale trial of the drug at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, said: "Usually these things are blown out of proportion, but this is real.

"It looks very promising for people with chronic myeloid leukaemia, and might also be useful for people with other forms of leukaemia."

31 out of 31

Dr David Secher, director of drug development at the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "It's early days, but these results are most encouraging, If you get blood count normalisation in 31 out of 31 patients, that's very exciting."

Usually these things are blown out of proportion, but this is real
Professor John Goldman
What is particularly interesting about the trial results is that the drug was given only to people whose disease was failing to respond to conventional treatment.

Ken Campbell, from the Leukaemia Research Fund, said the findings held out "great promise", although he warned that it would be some time before the long-term safety and effectiveness of the drug would be known.

"We won't know if it has any effect on the more agressive acute diseae. It could be that cells...break through the barrier imposed by this drug.
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See also:
29 Oct 99 |  Health
Child leukaemia 'starts in womb'
29 Oct 99 |  Medical notes
Leukaemia: Medical notes
15 Sep 99 |  Health
Sleepy key to leukaemia

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