In a new study, researchers found a drug, called CC-486, strongly improved survival in older patients, over the age of 55, with acute myeloid leukemia.
Acute myeloid leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow with excess immature white blood cells.
The results are from a global trial across 148 sites in 23 countries, showing a 30% improvement in survival in patients.
The research was conducted by a team from Monash University’s Australian Centre for Blood Diseases.
Around 20,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with AML every year.
AML is the most acute blood cancer in adults and its incidence increases with age, with a poor prognosis.
With current treatments, the majority of older patients will die of their disease within 2 years of diagnosis.
After intensive chemotherapy, the risk of AML relapse is high. Many older patients are not eligible to receive a stem cell transplant and so a less toxic option to reduce disease recurrence is desirable, rather than just being monitored and waiting for the disease to come back.
In the study, the team focused on people with AML over 55 years of age.
They tested 472 patients, with an average age of 68 years, who were either given CC-486 or a placebo.
The researchers found that those receiving the drug—which has the added advantage of being a tablet that can be taken at home—had an average survival from the remission of almost 25 months compared to those who did not take the drug, whose average survival was almost 15 months.
This is a very big advance because the drug is easy to administer and means that adults with AML don’t have to spend extra time in the hospital.
The team says based on the results it is very exciting to think that, by taking a tablet that is relatively well-tolerated, doctors can help reduce relapse risk and improve survival.
Following the team’s presentation of the results at the American Society for Hematology meeting in the United States in December 2019, the Food and Drug Administration fast-tracked approval for the use of CC-486 in the U.S in September this year.
One author of the study is Professor Andrew Wei.
The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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