With Gleevec, Cancer Patients Can Hope To Live 10 More Years

By Charles Omedo , Mar 10, 2017 02:02 AM EST

A 2001-FDA approved cancer drug, Gleevec, has been hailed as the new wonder drug for adding at least 10 more years to the lives of cancer patients. Also known as imatinib, the drug was developed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals as a targeted drug to treat chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that no additional health risks have been found for the drug nearly 17 years after its introduction into the market.

A CML diagnosis amounted to a death sentence

CML is a type of leukemia or blood cancer. According to the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), being diagnosed with the condition before the introduction of Gleevec was tantamount to a death sentence. This however is no longer the case since cancer patients now live above 10 years post-treatment with the drug.

The NCI revealed that nearly 5,000 new Americans are diagnosed with CML annually. In the current study, 1,106 participants from 177 cancer centers in over 16 countries were monitored to determine the efficacy of Gleevec and how it has prolonged their lives. Made to be taken only once a day, 83% of the followed patients have now lived 10 more years beyond when doctors said their lives would expire, WebMD reports.

Bharat Shah from Atlanta, Georgia, is a typical example of the efficacy of Gleevec. Shah was diagnosed with CML in 2000 and told he had between six months and three years to live. He began taking Gleevec that same year and he is still alive and well in 2017 - 17 years after his diagnosis. The drug has also been found to be effective in treating pediatric CML and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) among other types of cancers.

No additional side effects to taking Gleevec

Before Gleevec was approved for use in 2001, two out of three CML patients died within five years of diagnosis. This however is no longer the situation and doctors are happy their patients could have new lease of life extending beyond a decade, maybe even above two decades. Researchers also happy that no new side effects have been reported with Gleevec during the additional years it adds to patients.

Shah said the only side effect he observed is that his eyes get puffy sometimes. However, researchers say the most common effects they have observed with the drug are fatigue, itchy skin, nausea and muscle pain. It must however be pointed out that the patent for Gleevec expired last year, but its generic variants have also proved assuring to most medical doctors and they look forward to prescribing it to their CML patients.


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