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Health Insight October 2002: New milestones in leukaemia treatment

  Scientists from Cancer Research UK have developed a new technique for transplanting stem cells into patients with leukaemia and lymphoma. The treatment is sometimes used in patients with these diseases who do not respond to conventional treatment. However, the transplants are often followed by high-dose chemotherapy, which can cause side-effects and kill the stem cells. The UK Team, led by Dr Raj Chopra, have succeeded in genetically engineering cells to make them resistant to the chemotherapy. The chemotherapy targets the cancer cells and the patient’s own stem cells, but leaves the transplanted stem cells which multiply to fill the gaps and strengthen the anti-cancer immune response. Dr John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK said, ‘Dr Chopra’s research combines two of the most exciting areas of medical science – stem cell research and gene therapy – to create a clever potential treatment which may end up saving lives.’

More good news for leukaemia sufferers is that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has recommended that Glivec, a drug used to treat people with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) should be made available on the NHS as a second line treatment to all patients likely to benefit from it. NICE will also be preparing guidelines on the use of Glivec for the first line treatment of CML subject to the drug receiving its licence for this indication.

Source: Press release (DoH), BBC Online

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