Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Experimental combination treatment halts rare leukemia

prolymphocyte is a white
blood cell
 – Wikipedia

CANCER DIGEST – June 30, 2015 –An experimental new treatment approach for a rare, deadly leukemia can send the disease into remission even in patients for whom the standard therapy has failed, buying them more time to have the stem cell transplant that could save their lives, a small pilot study has found.

The new approach to battling T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia uses a combination of two drugs already approved for cancer and other therapies, alemtuzumab and cladribine. 

T-PLL is an aggressive subtype of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). It is more common in older men, but women may also develop it. Even so, it's extremely rare.

In the pilot study, led by Thomas P. Loughran Jr., M.D., director of the University of Virginia Cancer Center and Elliot Epner, M.D., at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, treated eight patients with T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia who had failed to respond to other treatments. They published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

One patient was expected to live only four months but survived 34. Three others were still alive at the time the researchers were compiling the trial results.

The experimental approach did not cure the patients, but it did send them all into remission. And it worked repeatedly – patients could be re-treated and receive the same benefit, providing vital time as they looked for a suitable bone marrow/stem cell donor. (To receive a transplant for this disease, patients must first be in remission.)

Because the drugs used in the treatment are already commercially available, doctors could, in theory, could administer the treatment without further testing. Loughran, however, believes there needs to be additional study, hopefully in a larger trial, but the rarity of the disease makes recruiting subjects difficult.

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