Leukemia Clinical Trials

People who participate in clinical trials have the first chance to benefit from it. That’s why it is so important to consider all of your treatment options, including clinical trials.  Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate whether a new drug, treatment, or combination of treatments is safe, effective and possibly better than the current standard-of-care.  They are the only way to scientifically test a new treatment to prove whether it is more effective that treatments most commonly is use for that cancer.

This may be especially important, for people whose cancer has not responded to standard treatments, a clinical trial may be the best available treatment option.

Last year nearly 53,000 Americans were diagnosed with Leukemia


Leukemia occurs most often in adults older than 55 years, and is the most common cancer in children younger than 15 years. Last year, nearly 53,000 Americans were diagnosed with leukemia, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is a cancer that starts in a cell in either the lymphoid cells of the immune system or the mylegenous cells of the bone marrow, which include the granulocytes, monocytes and platelets. When one of these cell types undergoes a leukemic change, it grows faster and survives better than normal cells, resulting in crowding out or suppressing the development of normal cells. White blood cells are the most common type of blood cell to become cancer. The rate at which leukemia progresses classifies it as chronic or acute, and how the cells replace the normal blood and marrow cells are specific to each type of type of leukemia. Learn more from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Types of leukemia:

Adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)– the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes, progresses rapidly without treatment and is the most common cancer in children. Learn more from the National Cancer Institute

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)– the bone marrow makes abnormal number of myeloblasts (a type of white blood cell), platelets or red blood cells, and affects cells that are not fully developed.  It progresses rapidly without treatment and is one of the most common adult leukemias. Learn more from the National Cancer Institute

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)–  forms in the cells that become lymphocytes (white blood cells) in the bone marrow. Can progress either slowly or quickly depending on the form it takes and is one of the most common adult leukemias. Learn more from the National Cancer Institute

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)- forms from a a genetic change in immature myeloid cells (cells that make red blood cells, platelets, and most types of white blood cells (except lymphocytes). An abnormal gene is formed that converts the cell to a cancerous CML cell. About 10% of leukemia patients have this type.  Learn more from the National Cancer Institute

Other less common leukemias:

Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)– gets its name from the short, thin projections that look like hair on its cells.  Learn More from the National Cancer Institute

Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) and juvenile myleomonocytic leukemia (JMML)– has features of two other types of blood cancers and affects approximately three in 100,000 individuals in the United States each year. Generally affects older adults and in children it is usually diagnosed before 6 years of age.

Large granular lymphocytic (LGL) leukemia- characterized by enlarged lymphocytes, containing noticeable granules, which can be seen when the blood is examined under the microscope. There are two types of LGL leukemia: T-cell (T-LGL) and natural killer cell (NK-LGL).

Blastic plasma cytoid dendric cell neoplasm (BPCDM)– previously called NK cell leukemia/lymphoma, presents with features of both lymphoma and leukemia.  The skin is the site of disease in 80% of cases. Learn more from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

History of Leukemia Research

 Leukemia was recognized as early as 200 years ago, when, Peter Cullen defined a case of splenitis acutus with unexplainable milky blood in 1811. John Bennett later named the disease leucocythemia, based on the microscopic accumulation of purulent leucocytes in 1845. Dr. Sidney Farber became the father of leukemia chemotherapy when he  first tried folic acid treatment in children with ALL, but failed when it actually made patients worse.  However, he then hypothesized that the antagonist (blocks the receptor instead of activates it) of folic acid, aminopterin, could be effective.  The result was that it produced temporary cancer remission with the return of normal blood cells for 10 of the 16 children. Dr. Farber went on to establish the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation, now known as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, MA), which was the first institution devoted entirely to the care of children with cancer. His work began the era of leukemia research, where every decade since has seen chemotherapeutic and therapeutic advances to extend survival and even cure some leukemias.  The new chemotherapeutic regimens of the 1950s were highly toxic and gave way to less toxic combination therapies in the 1960s.  Bone marrow transplant, where the unhealthy blood-forming cells are replaced with healthy ones (or marrow) from either the patient themselves (autologous) or a matching donor ( allogenic), became a new  option in the 1970s.  In the 1980s, the role of oncogenes (mutated genes on tumor cells)  that cause cells to proliferate was recognized so that therapies could be developed to target these oncogenes.  Monoclonal antibodies were discovered in the 1990s and are designed to react with or attach to antigens (foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and allergens) on the surface of cancer cells, blocking or interfering with the cell’s activity. These drugs aim for a specific target or marker on the cell and are also referred to as targeted therapy.

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Current Leukemia Research

Targeted therapies represent great progress in leukemia. For instance, CML patients now have an easy to administer oral therapy (Gleevec) and many are in remission with less side effects than previous chemotherapies.  There are leukemias that have treatments resulting in long-term remissions and others that we have learned to manage better over time.  Oncogenes are continuously being discovered that can provide additional effective targets for new therapies and for instance, in 2013, epigenomic alterations in 200 AML tumors were discovered that can lead to new therapies.  CLL saw significant advances with 4 new therapies approved in 2014. These treatments are more effective with fewer side effects for these patients, and this progress was recognized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) as the Advance of the Year in their Clinical Cancer Advances 2015 Report.

Leukemia is a complex cancer, but improved understanding of cancer genetics and disease mechanism is spurring the development of therapies that will increase survival and result in a better quality of life for all leukemia patients. Learn more from the American Society of Clinical Oncology

Improved understanding of cancer genetics and disease mechanism is spurring the development of therapies that will increase survival and result in a better quality of life for Leukemia patients

Why Cure Forward?

Whether you’re seeking information about leukemia clinical trials or studies related to some other form of cancer, it can be hard to find trials that might be a good match.

Through our Clinical Trial Exchange, Cure Forward collects data on clinical trials and studies from multiple sources making it easier to find all the options that are available for you or your loved one. We work directly with clinical trial recruiters to help introduce their trials to potential candidates.

No more scouring the Internet.  Our Clinical Trial Exchange brings current, active studies directly to you.

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