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Alternative to chemotherapy for leukaemia patients

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A new treatment could help leukaemia patients who are too weak for chemotherapy, according to a new study.

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Scientists at the University of Birmingham said using a combination of the contraceptive pill and a cholesterol-lowering drug could be a safer and more effective option for patients.

Some 20 acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) patients treated with Bezafibrate and the female contraceptive drug Medroxyprogesterone Acetate suffered none of the side effects linked with chemotherapy, the scientists said.

The study, published online in the British Journal of Haematology, also showed that survival was improved by several months.

The patients, who all had a poor prognosis and were expected to live for an average of two months without treatment, survived for an average of five months when treated with the two drugs.

The experts established that the drugs work together to destroy AML cells by blocking a key enzyme.

Chris Bunce, who led the research at the University of Birmingham, said: “Normal chemotherapy can be fatal for frail patients because it attacks healthy blood cells as well as the leukaemia cells.

“This new treatment for AML is very exciting because it only targets the leukaemia cells.

“It has no significant toxicities, which means that in future trials we can use higher doses of the drugs that our laboratory-based studies suggest will generate even more promising survival rates for patients.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • livvyf3

    I think this has great future implications for nurses who are caring for patients with AML, generally a large proportion who are affected by this type of leukaemia. Recent figures show that there are 2250 new diagnoses of acute myeloid leukaemia each year in the UK. Nurses have to manage quite intensive chemotherapy for these patients. Symptom management and monitoring side effects requires specific nursing interventions related to specialist nursing, and often at lengthy durations. Patients who respond well to these alternative routes of treatment will have a better quality of life, less symptomatic problems and generally recover well from their disease. I presume the affect of these drugs on younger adults (13-24 years) who are diagnosed with AML - 90 a year - may also be a future group to explore. I understand the charity Leukaemia Research have funded this interesting and diverse form of treatments.

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