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Hopes heighten for new leukemia drug.

Hopes heighten for new leukemia drug

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common leukemia in the Western world, develops mostly in the elderly. Already striking more than 27,000 people in the United States each year, this fatal blood disease seems destined to become even more common as the population ages. Scientists have tested a remarkably long list of potential CLL drugs, but few have achieved response rates of even 20 percent.

Now, with results accumulating from trials of an experimental drug introduced about five years ago, CLL researchers express an optimism not heard in their field for many years. Michael J. Keating of the

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston reports preliminary results from a trial of CLL patients given the experimental drug fludarabine. Of 127 test patients who failed to respond to traditional chemical and radiation treatments, about 60 percent have gone into remission without the hair loss, nausea and bone marrow suppression seen in traditional CLL therapies.

In a separate study by the same researchers, the disease disappeared in more than 35 percent of 33 paatients not previously treated with anything else. Fewer than 10 percent of new CLL patients respond to traditional drugs with complete remission.

"This appears to be the agent with most dramatic ability to get rid of chronic lymphocytic leukemia that we've ever tested," Keating says, adding that it also looks good in trials with some kinds of lymphoma. Adds Bruce Cheson of the National Cancer Institute: "This really is the most exciting thing that's happened with CLL in decades."

Keating says true survival data will take another two to three years to gather, but the drug's ability to immediately shrink the soft tissue "lumps and bumps" that constantly remind CLL patients of their disease is in itself a major success.
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Title Annotation:from the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology
Author:Weiss, Rick
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 3, 1989
Words:299
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