New drug to treat leukemia in the elderly
Acute myeloid leukemia is one of the most common forms of leukemia in Germany. Cancer therapy options are rather limited, especially in older patients. A new drug for the treatment of leukemia could increase the patient’s response to therapy. The effectiveness of Venetoclax was tested as part of the international study “VIALE-A”. The study results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Studies play an important role in the treatment of leukemia
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a life-threatening disease. It is a blood cancer in which the blood cells multiply in an uncontrolled manner. The affected myeloid cells do not develop into blood cells, but into cancer cells. They are transported to other organs in the body by the blood and over time can affect the entire organ system. Without the right treatment, the prognosis for people with the disease is poor. However, if therapy is started immediately after the diagnosis, the chances are much better. The patients are first treated with chemotherapy, in individual cases a bone marrow transplant may also be necessary. The patients are also treated individually with other medications. Studies play a major role in choosing the right treatment strategy. The international study “VIALE-A” offers such a strategy for older people.
Is the new drug effective in treating leukemia in the elderly?
431 patients were examined during the study. All subjects had acute myeloid leukemia and intensive chemotherapy was impossible for all of them. On the other hand, the old age of the patients and, for some of those affected, had previous illnesses. The participants were divided into two groups, the patients in the control group were treated with azacitidine. The patients in the test groups received a combination of azacitidine and the new drug venetoclax.
Venetoclax is a selective BCL-2 inhibitor that can recognize and bind to BCL-2 proteins. This releases pro-apoptotic proteins. This promotes cell death of cancer cells. Venetoclax was previously used as a single substance for the treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
The results of combination therapy with the new drug are promising:
1. The patients treated with both azacitidine and venetoclax survived an average of 14.7 months. In contrast, the patients in the control group survived an average of 9.7 months.
2. The remissions doubled in the patients in the test group.
The results are so impressive that the EU Commission is expected to approve the combination treatment with the two preparations next year.
Good news for elderly patients with AML. Because for them, the therapy options are rather limited.
To the study
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