Gleevec Offers Hope for Leukemia Patients

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

New data support the role of imatinibmesylate (Gleevec) tablets in increasingthe 5-year survival rate in adult patientswith a newly diagnosed blood cancer,Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+)chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).

Results came from the InternationalRandomized Interferon versus STI571(IRIS) phase 3 trial, which was the largesttrial of its kind for this patient population.Not only did positive patient response toGleevec increase with each passing year,but progression to an advanced stage ofthe blood cancer actually declined to0.6% in the trial's fifth year.

When factoring in mortality from allcauses, the survival rate for patients takingGleevec was 89%. When consideringdeath as a result of causes unrelated toCML or prior transplantation, the survivalrate was 95% at 5 years.

Before CML patients had Gleevec as atreatment option, about half of them sawtheir CML progress to more advancedstages in only 3 to 5 years, with anunpromising survival rate. As Gleevecemerged as a powerful force in combatingCML, it has been approved for use inEurope for 6 diseases and in the UnitedStates for 7, including 2 solid tumors and5 blood disorders.

The IRIS study included 1106 patientswith Ph+ CML in 177 centers in 16 countries.They were divided into 2 groups:one group received 400 mg/day ofGleevec and the other received 5 milliinternationalunits/ m2/day of interferonplus Ara-C 20 mg/m2/day for 10 dayseach month. Due to tolerability concernsand lack/ loss of response, 65% ofpatients in the interferon group movedinto the Gleevec group, and 3% of theGleevec group moved to the interferongroup. In the 5-year treatment period,major cytogenetic responses rose from85% to 92%; complete cytogenetic responserose from 69% to 87%; and completehematologic response rose from96% to 98%.

Results of the study were published inthe New England Journal of Medicine.

Ms. Farley is a freelance medicalwriter based in Wakefield, RI.