Exciting leukemia research at UW Hospital - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Exciting leukemia research at UW Hospital

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MADISON (WKOW)-- New research at UW hospital is showing exciting potential in the treatment of Leukemia. Investigators are working on a study that hopes to help patients with chronic lympopocyctic leukemia, or CLL for short. The disease is an incurable form of cancer that affects more than 17,500 people in the U.S.

"This is a disease that people typically live with for a long time, but often as time goes on and people get more treatment they benefit less and less from treatment," lead investigator Dr. Julie Chang says.

Chang and fellow researchers are working with more than 30 patients on a new study to see if lenalidomide should become the standard treatment of choice for CLL. The medication is a distant cousin of thalidomide which was first marketed as a way to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women, but caused significant birth defects for children in the 1960's.

In the 2000's, researchers discovered the drug had significant potential for fighting cancer cells. Chang says lenalidomide is similar to thalidomide, but is much safer with rare cases of minor side effects.

"This drug is kind of a newer generation of the drug thalidomide which has been reformulated to really preserve a lot of the anti-cancer properties, but to be better tolerated," Chang explains.

Lenalidomide has shown great potential in early studies, but researchers say there's still a long road before it becomes the primary tool to fight leukemia.

"Our hope is that after people have finished standard chemotherapy their disease is going to be really knocked down to a pretty minimal level. By giving this pill treatment we will get that population of CLL cells down to very low levels that hopefully it will give people a long period of time before they have to think about doing chemotherapy again," Chang says.

Researchers say patients from across the state of Wisconsin are participating in the study. They are given the medication along with an antibody called rituximab for two years. After that researchers will collect all the data to see if the medication is a good way to keep leukemia in remission.

For more information on participating in this study, contact the clinical trials number at UW Hospital at (608)-263-6005.

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