An Expert Update on AML Research

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Topics include: Treatments and Treatment | General

What’s the latest news in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) research and treatment? Dedicated AML experts, Dr. Ross Levine and Dr. Gwen Nichols, joined Patient Power at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 2017 annual meeting to discuss four exciting new targeted therapy approvals for AML, and the unique genetic markers that categorize conditions into AML subtypes. Dr. Nichols also explains how clinical trials can help drug approvals come to fruition faster for patients. 

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power, in partnership with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). We thank Astellas, Celgene Corporation, Novartis, Pfizer and Seattle Genetics for their support.

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

So, Ross, you’re a researcher. We’re going to come back to Gwen in a second. What’s being discussed here at this meeting in Atlanta? You have thousands of people. You’re one of the leading researchers in this field. What’s hot?

Dr. Levine:            

Well, I think what’s really exciting, at this meeting, is that we are seeing two fields come together in a way that we really had never seen before. At this meeting, you have two different groups of folks that come together. And I sort of straddle both of those. You have laboratory scientists who spend their time looking under the hood, if you will, and understanding the wiring, what makes AML and other blood cancers tick.

And then, you have clinicians that are trying to develop and test new treatments. And what we’re seeing, I think, for the first time, not just on an occasional basis, but over and over again, in recent months leading up to this meeting and culminating at this meeting, are numerous examples of discoveries in the lab that are getting into and working in the clinic. And it’s that excitement that even the scientists want to know what happens in the clinic. And the clinicians are asking what is going to come out of the lab next. And to me, more than any one treatment that is an era that we’re just beginning. And it’s going to be really exciting to follow.

Andrew Schorr:

And there are new treatments developing and approved. Maybe you could talk about what’s changing. 

Dr. Levine:            

Yeah. I think it’s been a long, hard road for AML patients and their families and their doctors and their scientists. And, for many years, very few AML drugs that were out there, and, certainly, very few new approvals.

And now, we’ve had a real fantastic year in that four drugs have been approved. One is a drug that’s been reapproved but with much clearer—how to use it called gemtuzumab (Mylotarg), which is an antibody that targets something on the surface of leukemia cells. One is a new trick with an old weapon, and that is a drug called daunorubicin and cytarabine (Vyxeos), which is a liposomal form of chemotherapy that delivers better and gets into the cells better and has also less toxicity. And then, two are what we call molecular targeted therapies where they’re designed for specific subtypes of leukemia only for patients that have these molecular markers.

So I think what’s exciting to me about all of these is that it’s not one approach that’s working. It’s that we’re seeing multiple different approaches start to bear fruit. And there’s a lot more coming. And so, I think I am quite confident that we’re going to see many other successes in the next few years moving forward.

And there are already examples of drugs that are not yet approved that are being shown at this meeting that look very exciting in each of these different classes.

Andrew Schorr:

So folks like Dr. Levine are doing research. And that means there may be a clinical trial that’s available to patients at certain centers. And so, if there’s not an approved therapy that lines up with you or maybe in place of, you may consider a clinical trial. And we’ll talk about that. Dr. Nichols.

Dr. Nichols:         

Yes.

Andrew Schorr:

So you’ve been at this a long time. And I know before the LLS, you were in industry, but you were at Columbia University for a long time and also Memorial Sloan Kettering where Dr. Levine is. What’s sort of the headlines for you, what you’re seeing at this meeting?

Dr. Nichols:         

Well, I’d echo what Ross says, in terms of the scientists and the clinicians finally making translational medicine a reality as opposed to a wish. And we’re very excited, because there are now faster ways that the discoveries in the laboratory can be translated.                 

And that means faster getting to the patients. And one of those ways is, as you’ve mentioned, to do novel clinical trial designs. And LLS is supporting not only the research but also the clinical trial aspects. And so, I think we’re very excited that those two worlds are coming together. But it emphasizes how important clinical trials will be, because all the discoveries can’t make it to be drugs, unless brave patients participate in clinical trials.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on March 8, 2018