New drug refuels blood to help fight cancer

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

Your blood accounts for about 8% of your total body weight.

It’s vital for life, but when cancer happens in the blood, it can become life-altering and even life-threatening.

At the same time, there are few drugs approved for treatment.

But now, the FDA has just approved one that helps patients with anemia, a devastating side effect of one troublesome form of cancer.

Andrew and Esther Schorr are on a mission, spreading the word about myelofibrosis, something they know all too well about.

“I had some pain in my legs, turned out to be some blood clots, which was a shocker,” Andrew said.

Andrew was diagnosed with the rare blood cancer in 2011. At the time, there were no drugs for myelofibrosis. Andrew religiously worked out, ran eight marathons, and was a world traveler, but now, he struggles with exhaustion.

“When you’re anemic, you’re not getting the oxygen circulating around your body with your blood and you can be dead tired,” he said.

“All the patients with myelofibrosis can have anemia at some point in their disease,” said City of Hope hematologist oncologist Haris Ali.

Ali said patients have limited treatment options. Usually, a patient is anemic and they can’t get blood transfusions without significant risks. More than 30% are forced to quit MF treatment. Now, the FDA has approved the first treatment for anemia to help MF patients.

“So, Ojjaara is a jak inhibitor. It actually targets that pathway to help with the symptoms and also with the anemia,” Ali said.

The once-a-day pill helps to treat anemia so patients can get back on their treatment plans. Andrew is hopeful that this is the first of many for people struggling with this disease.

Ojjaara is the fourth drug to ever be approved to treat MF but is the only one that helps the anemia these patients suffer from. The main side effects are low platelet counts, dizziness, diarrhea and nausea

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