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New drug launched to target blood cancer gene

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A drug to target the genetic faults in cells which cause blood cancer has been launched in a bid to help the body produce healthy blood cells.

Vidaza, generic name azacitidine, is the first medicine to treat the cause of the cancer and can be used to treat sufferers of high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia (CMML) or acute myeloid leukaemia.

Research found that patients who were given Vidaza, which stops a process called methylation which shuts down genes essential for the development of blood cells, 'not only survived longer but also spent less time in hospital, had fewer serious infections and there was less need for transfusions'.

According to a study of 358 patients published in The Lancet Oncology, after two years 50·8% of patients treated with azacitidine had survived compared to 26·2% of those having chemotherapy.

Life expectancy was found to increase to 24.5 months for someone using the new medicine from 15 months for someone receiving conventional treatment.

Dr Shabih Syed, scientific director of Leukaemia Research, said: 'The availability of this drug will greatly improve the quality of life of patients and also ease some of the burden on NHS treatment facilities.'

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