The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an oral medication called Gleevec to treat patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). CML occurs when a particular enzyme that controls cellular growth is abnormally active. The action of this enzyme causes the white blood cells to grow out of control. Gleevec blocks the activity of the enzyme, slowing the abnormal growth of the white blood cells. The advantage of Gleevec as compared to traditional chemotherapy is that it kills only the cancer cells while chemotherapy kills all cells that are rapidly dividing, including healthy cells of the gut and scalp. Scientists are hopeful that a variety of other cancer drugs can be developed using a similar approach.
Mauro, M.J., Druker, B.J. STI571: targeting BCR-ABL as therapy for CML. Oncologist, 6: 233-238. 2001. [PubMed]
Last Reviewed: July 29, 2013