City of Hope researchers developing breakthrough leukemia treatment

There's been a potentially big breakthrough in the treatment of leukemia.

Local researchers at City of Hope are developing a treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia that may one day eradicate it.

Each and every day, Diana Dewees takes an anti-cancer drug called a Tyrosine-Kinase inhibitor or TKI.

Dewees said she'll have to take it "for the rest of my life."

Without it, her CML or chronic myelogenous leukemia, could come back.

She's been taking drugs to fight leukemia for 10 years, but sometimes TKIs stop working. Then the only other option is a stem-cell transplant.

And that can be a very risky, and long procedure.

But now Dr. Guido Marcucci and his colleague Dr. Bin Zhang have developed a new drug called Miristen that targets leukemia stem cells. In animal studies, researchers saw that combining Miristen with TKIs made the cancer cells disappear.

Marcucci said, "and it would be pills that would keep the leukemia in check and basically just have a normal life."

Doctors are always concerned that the leukemia will come back if the TKI treatment is stopped.

This one-two punch with Miristin could potentially send the disease into permanent remission.

Marcucci confirmed, "yes,it could be a cure."

Dewees says the idea is exciting, and she'd be happy to participate.

"I would gladly be a guinea pig," she said.

City of Hope researchers believe this combined therapy could also treat other forms of leukemia as well as other types of cancer.

"We feel there's a potential for other tumors," Marcucci said.

While it will take about one to two years to bring Miristen to human clinical trials, Marcucci says the initial studies in the lab look very promising.

It gives immense hope to patients like Dewees.

She said, "the progress has been terrific and it sounds like maybe there's a chance of eradicating it."
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