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How Imatinib (gleevec) Transformed Leukemia Treatment And Cancer Research

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By Author: Asuka
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Gleevec (Imatinib) was developed with primarily with the help of researches conducted by National Cancer Institute (NCI), and Imatinib was one of the discoveries they made. This Drug has drastically improved the outcomes of patients who were suffering from Blood Cancer primarily Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia. And due to the discoveries made by NCI that lead to Imatinib, they helped to establish a Targeted Therapy which had revolutionised the field of Cancer Research.

Imatinib / Gleevec cost information

Genetic Alterations by Cancer?
How genes can be influenced by cancer had a very limited understanding amongst Scientist and Researchers in 1950s.

A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania quoted that in the 1950s, researchers and scientist didn’t think that genetic mutations can be a cause for tumours.
Although a very few of the researchers who believed that generic mutations can cause Cancer were limited to lack of evidence to prove their hypothesis.
During that time the patients suffering from the chronic myelogenous leukaemia were basically handed a death sentence because there wasn’t any effective treatment available. So, Dr. Nowell, a researcher at University of Pennsylvania, spent all of his days peering into microscope analysing cancer cells taken from chronic myelogenous leukemia patients.
Dr. Nowell believed that cancer can be caused by genetic changes, and in order to proof his hypothesis started researching on chromosomes of leukemia cells.
And during his research on chromosomes of leukemia cells, he collaborated with Dr. David Hungerford, graduate student at Fox Chace Cancer Centre in Philadelphia, who was studying chromosome for his graduate thesis.
Discovery of the Philadelphia Chromosome in Leukemia
In the year 1960, both Dr. Nowell and Hungerford started examining cancer cells of patients suffering from CML. And they found something very strange – that there was one very abnormally short chromosome. During that time, they had no clue how this was possible.
So out of curiosity they examined more leukemia cells from more people suffering from CML in order to verify whether small chromosome is a common feature amongst patients? And in the process, they found out that there were 7 more patients who suffered from the same condition of abnormal chromosome.
And this tiny abnormality in chromosome, was later name as Philadelphia Chromosome. After this discovery, further researches into this, led to conclusion that Philadelphia chromosome was present in 95% of patients suffering from CML.
And with the technological development in the field of Cancer Research, researchers realized that Philadelphia chromosome is formed when 2 chromosomes break and both chromosome pieces swaps their place.
A few years later, Dr. Nora Heisterkamp and her colleagues discovered that when two genes that are normally separated get fused together, leading to formation of Philadelphia chromosome. And this hybrid (fusion gene) is called BCR-ABL.
And later Dr. Owen Witte and his colleagues proved that CML was caused by BCR-ABL formation in blood cells.
And with combined efforts of all the above researchers during the course of time had proven that genetic alternation/mutation can be a cause for cancer.

Imatinib Mesylate: A Therapy Targeted Against Leukemia
With the hope of finding a treatment for CML that would leave healthy cells intact and kill the cancer cells, Brian Druker M.D. hypothesized with drug that could block BCR-ABL. And the reason for hypothesis was that as healthy cells don’t have BCR-ABL, they should not be affected.
Both Nicholas Lydon, M.D. and Brian Druker M.D. did a long extensive search for such a compound that could prove Druker’s hypothesis.
Remarkably, both recognized a compound that was incredibly good at killing CML cells and letting healthy cells remain intact. This compound was referred to as STI-571 and later renamed to imatinib (Gleevec).
In 1998, Dr. Druker and his colleagues started testing Imatinib in Phase 1 of clinical trials. And the results were astonishing, as the drug caused cancer to disappear in majority of the patients suffering from CML (early or chronic stage). And 98% patients who were tested in clinical trials, were still in remission even after years.
During the early years of this drug, for people Imatinib was too good to be true, until they saw people who were once bed-ridden are now going to for hikes, dancing, cycling and doing yoga stated Dr.Druker during his interview with The New York Times in 2009.

And subsequent trials of Imatinib, found similar results. With the use of Imatinib, quality of life was improved and there were fewer side effects as compared to standard treatments for CML.
Imatinib was FDA approved in 2001 for treating patients suffering from CML that has the Philadelphia chromosome. Now, in the present day a person who is suffering from CML that has Philadelphia chromosome, and is in remission after 2 years of treatment with Imatinib has the same life expectancy as someone who doesn’t have Cancer.
With the discovery Imatinib, researchers have established a group of Drugs that could treat cancer called Targeted therapies. These targeted therapies are designed such a way that they only attacks cancer cells with a specific genetic mutations or abnormalities.
Imatinib / Gleevec side effects
Some common Imatinib side effects include:
• Pain in bone and/or muscles cramps
• Bleeding problems (haemorrhage)
• Skin rashes
• Vomiting and/or nausea
• Diarrhea
• Low levels of white and/or red blood cells
• Fever
Imatinib can be absorbed through the skin and lungs. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid handling this medication to prevent harm to the unborn baby.
Imatinib Cost Information
The information provided on the page is meant for the purpose of being helpful and educational. It should not be considered as medical advice.

Source: https://www.cancercurepharmacy.com/BlogDetails.aspx?Title=How-Imatinib-Gleevec-Transformed-Leukemia-Treatment-and-Cancer-Research

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