Local News

New Leukemia Drug Offers Great Hope

Posted May 13, 2001 10:59 a.m. EDT

— A local doctor is proof that a new treatment for a deadly form of leukemia is extremely promising.

Gleevec, also called STI-571, kills only cancerous cells associated with chronic myeloid leukemia.

Dr. Vincent Carrasco has the disease and began participating in a clinical trial of the drug eight months ago.

The drug worked quickly, leaving him with almost no sign of the disease today.

"I know what it was like to be on the edge, and the drug picked me off the edge and I think about other people who are on the edge now, who are either newly diagnosed or have not had access to the trials," Dr. Carrasco says.

Carrasco could not continue Interferon treatments, but fortunately for him, his Oncologist was working with the Novartis-developed drug.

Oncologists are hailing the drug as a major breakthrough. Dr. Robert Orlowski, of the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center, says that "it is very well tolerated. People can basically go about normal life, they can have a family life and go to work if they want to because it specifically targets the abnormality."

WRAL's Dr. Alan Mask says that "[Gleevec] represents a major breakthrough in the treatment of leukemia and other cancers, and it may be the key to other discoveries as well."

Gleevec is expected to be widely available in just weeks, after one of the fastest approvals ever by the FDA.