New Drug and New Hope for Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Those that suffer from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) undergo an arduous chemotherapy process and stem-cell transplant. It doesn’t seem to be enough as the American Cancer Society states that only 27 percent will live another five years.
AML is characterized by rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that develop within bone marrow and get in the way of the normal production flow of blood cells. It’s so rare that it accounts for roughly 1.2% of cancer deaths in the U.S.

Because its one of our bad ones, scientists have been working tirelessly to find a new drug to combat the cancer. In Salt Lake City, a company is seeing light at the end of the tunnel as they test a targeted therapy with positive results.

They’re called Tolero Pharmaceuticals and their new drug is called Alvocidib which targets a protein called CDK.

“It affects a particular protein that those AML cells like to express. It’s a survival protein. It’s a protein that helps them not die,” said David Bearss, Ph.D., of Tolero Pharmaceuticals.

This new medicine allows the chemotherapy in to kill the cancer and according to clinical trials, it’s increasing the remission rate. Four hundred patients have enrolled in the trials for this new drug in nine states in the U.S. and Canada.

Consider the case of Lila Javan who was 39 when she was diagnosed with AML and was in remission after months of chemo. All was well until 4 years later, the cancer came back with a vengeance. Today, she’s back in remission. But after all the back and fourth, she’s accepted that the cancer can always come back, which is why she, more than anyone, is excited about Alvocidib.

“It’s amazing. You know, like I said, it would be a total game changer and so many people would be helped,” she said.

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