Help LLS fund research that can save more lives
Dr. Brian Druker developed the famed Gleevec® therapy for patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). LLS funding was critical to that major advance and now LLS is making it possible for Dr. Druker and his research team to focus on developing better therapies for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Gleevec is a new-generation “targeted” drug that kills CML cells by inhibiting the abnormal enzyme (a tyrosine kinase) that causes these cancers. Gleevec transformed this once fatal disease to a manageable condition for the vast majority of newly diagnosed CML patients, saving thousands of lives. It is also helping patients with acute lymphocytic leukemias that carry the same enzyme abnormality (called Ph+ ALL), and patients with rare stomach and skin cancers driven by similar abnormalities – for these patients there had been no successful treatment, before Gleevec.
There is an urgent need to develop better treatments for AML patients since current treatments are highly toxic and relapses are still common. And, now Dr. Druker and his LLS-funded team are targeting this blood cancer.
AML is more heterogenous than CML, in terms of molecular abnormalities. The Druker team has demonstrated that many AML cases have one or more abnormally active tyrosine kinases. Based on their success with Gleevec, these stellar researchers are learning, in individual cases, which tyrosine kinase causes excess growth and how best to inhibit that particular enzyme to kill the AML cells.
The Druker team optimized state-of-the-art tests to do this in a matter of days and assembled a battery of FDA-approved and experimental kinase-inhibitor drugs. They used their remarkable approach to select individualized treatments for a few patients that had not responded to standard therapies, but did respond to the new treatments. Based on these promising results, Dr. Druker and his team are designing unique clinical trials that can provide personalized therapies to a larger number of patients.
Dr. Druker has an impressive record achieving positive results for CML and Ph+ALL patients with clinical trials and FDA approvals. Similar success in the new work could lead to improved outcomes for AML patients, with targeted therapies that zero in on each patient’s cancer and can be more effective, and less toxic, than today’s conventional treatments.
John Hyland, our Ironman team mate is a Trustee and former President of the LLS, NJ Chapter Board. He was diagnosed with AML in April, 2010. It’s wonderful to report that John is in remission. But he knows the extraordinary challenges that AML patients face every day and has inspired the Team to do the Ironman and to raise $500,000 or more to fund this promising AML research. LLS has committed to fund 4 more years of the Druker team’s work, at $1.25 million per year.
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