Gleevec, which was just approved for treating leukemia, also shows promise against a type of stomach cancer . The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of a promising anti-leukemia drug for treatment of a relatively rare form of abdominal cancer. The drug, Gleevec, administered as a pill once a day, is effective in treating both forms of cancer because of its ability to target and kill cancer cells without attacking healthy cells and causing severe side effects.
Approved last spring for a common type of adult leukemia, Gleevec can now be used to treat gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GIST, which affect as many as 5,000 people in the US each year. Studies have shown it to be as effective in treating chronic cases of GIST as it has been in treating chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).
Researchers reported 59 percent of patients with advanced-stage GIST went into remission and up to 75 percent showed some type of improvement with limited side effects. GIST accounts for about two percent of all abdominal cancers. If caught early, these tumors can usually be removed surgically, but growths often return. According to its manufacturer, Novartis Oncology, Gleevec also is being studied as a possible treatment for prostate cancer, small-cell lung cancer and a rare type of brain cancer.