Trials of ‘lifesaving’ anti-cancer drug ABT-199 spark new hope for leukaemia patients

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lymphocytic leukaemia

Reuters: Katarina Stoltz

Source: ABC – Simon Lauder

Trials of a new anti-cancer drug have raised hopes that some leukaemia patients who previously had little prospect of survival may soon be able to control the disease with a daily pill, Australian researchers say.


Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the most common form of leukaemia in Australia, and each year around 1,000 Australians are diagnosed with the disease. It usually becomes resistant to chemotherapy, and no effective treatment has been developed.

The new drug, ABT-199, has been the subject of trials involving dozens of patients for the past year and a half.

The drug was developed by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne and trials have been run by the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Peter MacCallum cancer hospital in Melbourne.

Haematologist Dr Con Tam says leukaemia is now undetectable in about 20 per cent of patients involved in the trial.

“For the patients I put on this trial, this is a life saver,” he said.

“They come to me when their diseases have failed to respond to all other treatments, and under normal circumstances [with]these patients, all we can do is to watch the leukaemia grow and support them through, knowing that the leukaemia will kill them.

“This drug has completely changed that. These patients have gone from no treatment option to a highly effective treatment that restores their health and puts them back into normal life.

“Essentially we have never seen such a potent effect before, even with the strongest chemotherapy that we’ve had.”

Dr Tam says one in five patients on the drug “will enter into a stage where the leukaemia is no longer detectable by conventional technology”.

“We know that this is sometimes achievable with chemotherapy but we also know that with chemotherapy that invariably the leukaemia will come back even when it becomes undetectable,” he said.

“Suffice to say that in this group of patients with almost every other drug that we’ve tried we usually see resistance emerge at about the three to four month mark and so far with this type, with this drug, we have not seen resistance emerge to a large extent.”…READ FULL ARTICLE and listen to the audio.


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