New drug breakthrough shows promise for AML patients

Dr Steven Lane

One of our researchers, Dr Steven Lane, has been exploring a new drug that looks to be highly effective against acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and may prevent patients relapsing.

Pre-clinical trials by Dr Lane’s team at the at QIMR Berghofer Translational Leukaemia Research Laboratory, led by Claudia Bruedigam, found the drug imetelstat kills or impairs leukaemia progression.

Imetelstat targets a gene found in high levels in myeloid leukaemia stem cells called telomerase which appears to enhance the cancer cells’ long-term survival. This makes the cancer cells resistant to current chemotherapy treatments and enables them to reactivate after treatment, causing a patient to relapse.

 Imetelstat is a small drug that gets into the bone marrow where the leukaemia stem cells live, binds to the gene telomerase and shuts it down, killing the cancer cell.

Dr Lane has shown in his lab that the drug can prevent the leukaemia coming back after chemotherapy, with the best results seen when the drug is used in combination with chemotherapy.

This is a significant breakthrough for patients with AML and the Foundation is proud to have supported this important research.

The drug is in clinical trials in the US for another myeloid blood cancer, myelofibrosis (one of the myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN)) where it is also proving to be effective.

This news is exciting for both AML and MPN patients, particularly those who haven’t had a favourable response to other currently available treatments.

Dr Lane’s findings have been published in the major international journal, Cell Stem Cell. He hopes to commence a clinical trial for AML patients in Brisbane within the next year or two.

» Read more about how Dr Lane is beating blood cancers

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