Question: How close are you to finding a cure for leukemia?

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  1. Leukemia is a very complex disease. Really, it is a collection of diseases, as there are many different types, and even within those types there are many differences. In some senses, every leukemia patient has a different *unique* disease! So finding a single cure for all of them is not very realistic, and we have to look at what causes each case, and design treatments that will help each patient.

    A good example of this is chronic myeloid leukemia. This is one of the simpler leukemias, because almost every patient with it has a particular mutation (called BCR-ABL), and this mutation is so powerful that it is basically causing the leukemia all by itself. (Most leukemias require at least two different mutations.) About ten years ago, a research team invented a drug called Gleevec which specifically targets cells containing this mutation, and the result has been very effective. People who get this disease now live much longer and much more happliy than they did on the previous therapy.

    So if we could characterise every mutation that occurs in leukemia, and develop a drug that targets each one, then we could treat every patient based on the particular mutations that they have. However, as I’m sure you can understand, that is a MASSIVE job, and I don’t think we are very close to be able to treat ALL leukemias. However, there are some other types that have good treatments already, and the Gleevec example gives us hope for the others.


  2. In general, we work towards better understanding the disease so that we can treat it and eliminate it so that it doesn’t come back after surgery/treatment. To do that, we need to understand how each person’s disease came about, so we can come up with the best treatment specifically for that person. CML that Chis mentions is a great example of this–people with this specific mutation respond really well to Gleevec but wouldn’t work in a leukemia patient who doesn’t have this mutation.

    So as researchers we work to better understand which cancer types happen from which mutations and then we can figure out which treatments work best in this patients.



  1. thankyou this really helped me because she has ahd cancer