Researchers to test new leukemia drug

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a malignant cancer of the blood that affects people of all ages. While treatment is available for most of these patients, approximately 20 percent of them do not respond to it. Researchers at McGill teaching hospitals will soon study the effects of a new alternative therapy.

"Gleevec(TM) has become the standard treatment for CML," says Dr. Carlo Gambacorti-Passerini, Canada Research Chair in Oncology at McGill University. "It is remarkably effective for most patients; however, some become resistant to it. We will be looking at a new drug called BMS-354825. Initial analyses of this compound are positive and the side effects are minimal, especially when compared to those of chemotherapy."

The new research is planned to start in January at McGill University teaching hospitals, the only institutes in Canada where this treatment will be available. The hospitals that will test BMS-354825 include the Sir Mortimer B. Davis – Jewish General Hospital, the McGill University Health Centre and St. Mary's Hospital. Five different treatment scenarios will be tested. Three of these will include patients with chronic or accelerated-phase CML, and will be supervised by Dr. Gambacorti-Passerini at the Jewish General Hospital. The two other scenarios will include patients with acute forms of leukemia and will be directed by Dr. Pierre Laneuville, Director of Hematology at the McGill University Health Centre.

"Running these innovative clinical studies is an invaluable opportunity for both the University and our patients — who may benefit from participation and access to this treatment," stated Dr. Gerald Batist, Chairman of Oncology at McGill.

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