ORLANDO, Fla. – Doctors just hoped to treat symptoms when they gave people with a deadly blood disorder a drug to reduce the need for transfusions – but they reported signs of the disease itself disappeared in nearly half of them.
Specialists said the experimental drug, Revlimid, may be the first effective treatment for many people with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, which is more common than leukemia.
“It may be, if not eradicating the disease, putting it into what I would call deep remission,” said Dr. David Johnson, a cancer specialist at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center who had no role in the research.
MDS refers to a group of disorders caused by bone marrow not making enough healthy, mature blood cells. About 15,000 to 20,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, and as many as 50,000 Americans have it. They usually suffer anemia and fatigue and need blood transfusions about every eight weeks to stay alive. Revlimid is similar to thalidomide, a drug notorious for birth defects it caused decades ago but which in recent years has proven effective against another blood cancer, multiple myeloma. Researchers don’t know how it works other than it boosts the immune system in a number of ways.
In a new study, doctors tested Revlimid on 115 people with MDS who have the most common chromosome abnormality that causes the disease. After about six months, 66 percent no longer needed blood transfusions, said the study’s leader, Dr. Alan List of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. A year later, three-fourths still don’t need transfusions, he said.
The study was sponsored by Celgene Corp., which makes Revlimid. List is a consultant for the company and reported results Sunday at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.