Leukemia Patients Taking Gleevec Achieve 'Normal' Death
TUESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- The death rate of patients
with chronic myeloid leukemia who took Gleevec and were in
remission two years after treatment was similar to the death rate
in the general population, a new study shows.
Italian researchers collected data on 832 patients who were
taking Gleevec (imatinib) for up to eight years and found that 20
patients died during the follow-up period. That death rate of 4.8
percent, however, is similar to what would be expected in the
Only six deaths were related to chronic myeloid leukemia (CML),
the researchers noted.
Serious adverse events such as cardiovascular and digestive
problems were reported in 139 patents, but only 27 cases (19
percent) were considered to be related to Gleevec, according to the
Other adverse events frequently connected to Gleevec included
muscle cramps, weakness, edema, skin fragility, diarrhea, and
tendon or ligament lesions. Nineteen patients (2.3 percent) stopped
taking Gleevec due to side effects, with half switching to another
Patients taking Gleevec "frequently suffer from side effects
that are non-serious but can nonetheless reduce their quality of
life," the researchers wrote.
The study authors disclosed no conflicts of interest, noting
that their independence from pharmaceutical interests was a major
strength of the study.
The researchers also noted the "importance of a good
patient-provider relationship, in which side effects are easily
communicated and addressed to reduce/avoid non-compliance."
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. B. Douglas Smith of the Sidney
Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore,
noted "the astounding effect [imatinib] has had on the clinical
course of this disease."
However, he wrote that many patients in the study had been
treated first with interferon, which may have been a factor in
their remissions. For this reason, he concluded, "a careful
analysis of the two groups" -- patients who had taken interferon
and those who had not -- "might help shed light on this issue."
The study appears online March 22 in the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The American Cancer Society has more about
chronic myeloid leukemia.
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