Gleevec, the targeted cancer pill not only saves adults' lives, but has been shown to play a pivotal role in improving the results for children with a dire form of blood cancer - Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL).
Gleevec has already saved more than 100,000 lives, and is saving more children suffering from severe leukemia and is also preventing the progression of disease with long-term use in adults with chronic myeloid leukemia.
The researchers disclosed this finding at the plenary session of the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology.
These results came from a six-year long International Randomized Interferon versus STI571 (IRIS) study led by Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Cancer Institute, JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Druker is also a professor of medicine (hematology and medical oncology), cell and developmental biology, and biochemistry and molecular biology in the OHSU School of Medicine.
"Data at this weekend's meeting continues to show how much Gleevec has completely changed the outlook for so many, many patients facing cancer," said Druker.
The Children's Oncology Group study shows that adding Gleevec to the treatment of Ph+ ALL, the childhood leukemia with the worst prognosis, almost completely reverses this poor prognosis.
The Children's Oncology Group is a worldwide clinical trial cooperative supported by the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.
New data from the largest clinical trial in Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) that showed, Gleevec, with long-term use, may help in preventing progression to advanced stages of the disease, was also released at the conference.
The results of the study showed that continuous treatment with Gleevec provided a declining rate of relapse over time.
Since the second year of the study the risk of the disease progression while on Gleevec has declined continuously.
Surprisingly, between years five and six, any patient did not progress to an advanced phase of the disease.
"The news about Gleevec and the childhood leukemia study as well as the six-year IRIS study that shows there is no progression to advanced phase in CML means that more and more patients are surviving, despite being diagnosed with these cancers," said Druker
Gleevec has also been approved for the treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumors, pediatric CML, as well as five additional rare cancers.