Leukemia cure? New approach to kill cancer

Published: Updated:
(Credit: Ivanhoe Newswire)

Acute myeloid leukemia, also known as AML is an aggressive cancer that attacks the bone marrow. Around 30,000 people in the US are diagnosed with it each year. It’s the most common type of leukemia in older adults yet continues to have the lowest survival rates. But now, a new drug combination is stopping it in its tracks.

David Cade, AKA “Papa”, can either build it …

Fix it …

“I’ll just put a bunch of junk together,” said David.

Or figure it out.

David shared, “I love to just tear stuff up and see what makes it work.”

But there wasn’t anything in his toolbox that could repair what was wrong with him last year.

“It was just like life was leaving me,” David said.

David’s wife Dawn Cade said, “He just went to bed. So, I knew he was really sick.”

In just hours of arriving at the hospital, he was given the news.

Dawn said, “He said it’s leukemia.”

“He said you’ve got two weeks to two months to live,” David explained.

Diagnosed with AML, doctors said at 71, David wouldn’t survive traditional high-intensive chemotherapy.

“I basically told my kids goodbye, my grandkids goodbye,” said David.

Dan Pollyea, MD, MS, Clinical director of Leukemia Services, University of Colorado Cancer Center at the Anschutz Medical Campus did have one option. An FDA- approved clinical trial testing a low dose chemo combined with the pill venetoclax, a drug that targets leukemia stem cells.

“We’ve never seen a drug work like this, to target any type of cancer cell, let alone a stem cell,” said Dr. Pollyea.

The drug kills a protein called BCL2. This protein feeds the leukemia stem cells when it dies, so does the stem cell.

Dr. Pollyea explained, “This is a completely new way to kill a cancer.”

Before venetoclax only a minority of older patients would respond to their therapies. With this new treatment, over 70 percent achieve a remission.

Dr. Pollyea told Ivanhoe, “That’s the dream of a lifetime.”

David received the treatment. Eight days later …

“He says we can’t find it. It’s not in your body,” David said.

Now more than a year out …

“They can’t find a trace of it,” Dawn shared.

David is grateful: “I’m so blessed, I’ve been blessed all my life, but this is truly a blessing.”

The CU Cancer Hematology teams believe this new approach to killing cancer could destroy other tumor types including breast, pancreatic and colon.

There are two clinical trials enrolling patients right now, including the very first one for younger AML patients. For more information call 720-848-6400 or you can find more information go to clinicaltrials.ucdenver.edu

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