February 2016 Edition Vol.11, Issue 2

At ASH: Novel Targeted Therapies for Tough-to-Treat Blood Cancers

At ASH: Novel Targeted Therapies for Tough-to-Treat Blood Cancers

By Neil Canavan


Significant progress in new treatments – cures even – is being reported for some blood cancers. Advances in patient management highlighted at ASH 2015 include recently approved, or near-term for approval treatments options for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML; midostaurin); chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL; idelalisib, venetoclax); and multiple myeloma (MM; midostaurin).

“This is an enormously exciting time,” said Robert Hromas, MD, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, speaking at a press conference at the ASH 2015 meeting. “In my career alone we’ve made advances where, once, I lost everybody with multiple myeloma, but now… I haven’t lost anyone in 6 years.”

The reason? Targeted therapies. We now live in the era of molecular medicine where innovative drugs are increasingly designed to exploit a specific genetic defect. “My father has CML, a disease caused by a broken gene,” Dr. Hromas explained. “With a targeted therapy he has done extremely well, and new treatments will provide improved survival advantages for patients.”

Thanks to the blockbuster, Gleevec, and the next generation versions of this agent, many, if not most patients with CML are well served. The same cannot be said for numerous other leukemia subtypes (CLL, ALL, AML), as well as multiple myeloma (MM). However, clinical investigators presenting at ASH 2015 beg to differ. 


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