Leukemia Clinical Trials

People who participate in clinical trials have the first chance to benefit from new therapies. 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 on 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’s more effective than the current standard-of-care.

Another potential benefit: For people whose cancer has not yet responded to standard treatments, a clinical trial may be the best available treatment option.

Last year nearly 53,000 Americans were diagnosed with Leukemia.


Types of Leukemias

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

In patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the bone marrow makes an abnormal number of myeloblasts (a type of white blood cell) and platelets or red blood cells. This unchecked proliferation 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

In patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), cancer forms in the precursor cells that become lymphocytes (white blood cells) in the bone marrow. CLL 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

In patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), cancer develops as a result of 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) occur when too many precursor stem cells become monocytes—infection-fighting white blood cells. Combined these cancers affect approximately three in 100,000 individuals in the United States each year. Affected aduts are generally diagnosed between ages 65 and 75, while children are usually  usually diagnosed before 6 years of age.

Large granular lymphocytic (LGL) leukemia is characterized by enlarged lymphocytes, containing noticeable granules, which can be seen when the blood is examined under a 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 known as  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 inexplicably milky blood in 1811. John Bennett later named the disease leucocythemia, based on the microscopic accumulation of purulent leucocytes in 1845. In the late 1940’s, Dr. Sidney Farber became the father of leukemia chemotherapy when he first tried folic acid treatment in children with ALL, but it ultimately failed when it actually made patients worse.  However, Farber then hypothesized that aminopterin, which blocks the folic acid receptor, 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), making it 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 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.  In the 1970s, bone marrow transplants, where unhealthy blood-forming cells are replaced with healthy ones (or marrow) from either patients themselves (autologous) or a matching donor (allogenic). In the 1980s, the role of oncogenes (mutated genes on tumor cells), which cause cells to proliferate, was recognized so that therapies could be developed to target these oncogenes.

In the 1990s, the first monoclonal antibodies were discovered. Monocloncal antibodies 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 have led to significant progress in leukemia treatment and outcomes. For instance, CML patients now have an easy to administer oral therapy, known as Gleevec (imatinib). Many Gleevec-treated patients go into remission and have fewer side effects compared with previous standard chemotherapies.  Some  leukemias have treatment options that lead to long-term remissions in most patients.   Researchers continue to discover new oncogenes that have the potential to become therapeutic targets.  For example, in 2013, epigenomic alterations were discovered in 200 AML tumors, and in 2014, there were four new therapies approved. These new treatments are not only more effective, but have fewer side effects, 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.

When you get started with Cure Forward, your personal Clinical Trial Navigator with help you and you care team build a robust profile inclusive of your full medical history, personal preferences and molecular profile (when applicable), all at no cost. We are able to provide this free service as we focus on building robust profiles so we can match patients with relevant and active clinical trial options, opening the door to advanced treatments and accelerating medical innovation. 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.