Frequently Asked Questions
17. What new treatments for leukemia are being developed?
Researchers are studying various drugs, immunotherapies, and other types of treatments. Because leukemia is a complicated disease, researchers are also studying the effectiveness of using combinations of treatments. Following are a few examples of some areas of current research.
The drug imatinib (Gleevec®) is important in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. However, imatinib stops working in some people with leukemia because the cells become resistant. Fortunately, two drugs, dasatinib (Sprycel®) and nilotinib (Tasigna®), are being used to treat people who stop responding to imatinib. Both are approved by the FDA for use in patients. These drugs work against the same abnormal protein targeted by imatinib, but in different ways.
Gene therapy -- replacing, manipulating, or supplementing nonfunctional genes with healthy genes -- is being explored for treatment of leukemia. It is being studied as a way to stimulate a patient's immune system to kill leukemia cells and also to interfere with the production of proteins that cause cells to become cancerous.