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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Leukaemia drug for tumours

23rd March 2009

A US study has shown that a leukaemia drug also improves the likelihood that the patient will not develop further stomach tumours following surgery.


Patients given imatnib, marketed as Gleevec, following gastrointestinal stromal tumour surgery saw a marked decrease in recurrent tumours compared with a control group.

The finding comes one year after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved imatnib for use in post-surgery follow up treatments for gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST).

GIST are the most common soft-tissue intestinal cancer, and it is already known that Gleevec affects 85% of these via its action on tyrosine kinase and its associated protein tyrosine phosphatase, making it the first drug to inhibit a known cancer-causing protein.

The study was part of a phase 3 trial for the drug, involving just over 700 people with a GIST caused by tyrosine kinates at least 7 centimetres long.

Study participants received a daily dose either 400 milligrammes of Gleevec or a placebo over the course of a year.

After eight months had elapsed, 8% of the people taking Gleevec had either developed a new tumour or had died, compared to 20% of the people in the placebo group.

The numbers in the Gleevec group changed slightly after a year had passed, with only 2% experiencing a recurrence as compared to 17% without the drug.

The drug had less effect when middle-sized and small-sized tumours were involved, and proved most effective when the patient in question had a tumour greater than 10 centimetres.

The study was led by Dr Ronald DeMatteo of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The research team said that their findings will affect the management of patients with GIST and could have relevance to the use of other molecular agents for cancer.

Peter Hohenberger of the University of Heidelberg said that more research will be needed.

He said that there were so many unknowns that the drug might not be able to provide a definitive treatment decision.

The side effects of taking Gleevec at the doses needed to fight the recurrence of GISTs include dermatitis, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea.

Recent animal studies in mice have suggested that imatinib and tyrosine kinase inhibitors may be useful in treating smallpox in the event of an outbreak.


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