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Vaccine may Improve Leukemia Treatment

(Ivanhoe Newswire) - February 22, 2005 - A vaccine that stimulates immune response could boost the effectiveness of conventional treatment for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, according to a new study.

CML occurs when certain chromosomes, after breaking and exchanging, result in a shortened chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome. This chromosome causes cells to make a protein that promotes abnormal division and growth.

Researchers in Italy studied 16 patients with stable but detectable forms of CML. Ten of the patients were on the drug imatinib (Gleevec), and the remaining six were on the drug interferon alpha. The patients received one dose (six injections) of a vaccine targeting the faulty protein in addition to the medication they were already taking. They were evaluated after three and six doses.

Results show nine of the patients on imatinib had further reduction of their disease, with five having complete cytogenetic remission (meaning no Philadelphia chromosomes were detected during cell division). Also, three out of those five had undetectable disease at a molecular level, which is extremely rare.

Among the group receiving the vaccine along with interferon alpha, five out of six had their disease reduced, with two having complete cytogenetic remission.

Study author Monica Bocchia, M.D., of the University of Siena in Italy remarks, "Our preliminary data suggest that the addition of this vaccine to patients treated with conventional treatment might favor further reduction of the residual disease and increase the number of patients who reach a molecular response, the best surrogate of cure for those with chronic myeloid leukemia."

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.

SOURCE: The Lancet, 2005;365:657-662


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