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Targeted therapies offer fresh hope for AML

Targeted therapies offer fresh hope for AML

Friday, 22 July 2016

The results of a clinical trial involving a new combination therapy of Venetoclax and chemotherapy are providing hope for Australians diagnosed with AML.

Clinical and translational AML researcher, Dr Andrew Wei and his teams at the Alfred Hospital and Monash University, are optimistic about the combination therapy, with between 60 and 70 percent of the trial participants overcoming their cancer to achieve complete remission, and the duration of remissions looking ‘extremely promising’.

A disease where little progress has been made on advancing treatments, especially for older people and those resistant to chemotherapy, Dr Wei has conducted clinical trials with the experimental drug Venetoclax, which has ‘flicked the switch’ on AML.

Dr Wei is determined to increase the success rate for people diagnosed with AML through novel therapies, and he is working to ensure Australians with AML can access new treatments through clinical trials.

Generous community support of the Leukaemia Foundation’s National Research Program has provided Dr Wei with funding over the past 14 years enabling him to coordinate a number of investigator-initiated clinical trials and identify the role of novel and targeted therapies for AML.

Dr Wei is leading a national Australian clinical trial, examining the role of the FLT3 inhibitor sorafenib in combination with chemotherapy, randomised for untreated adults (aged 18-65) identified to have the FLT3-ITD mutation. This Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group (ALLG) study, underway at 23 hospitals around Australia, was initiated by a Leukaemia Foundation National Research Program grant, with further funding support from the NHMRC.

Answering the call for more clinical trials for people in need of better options, Dr Wei and his research team have also opened a number of clinical trials targeting IDH1 and IDH2 in collaboration with pharmaceutical industry, which are especially relevant for people with relapsed/refractory AML.

There are a number of centres across Australia running these studies and you can obtain more information on these clinical trials for AML by phoning 03 9076 3451 (or via the ANZ clinical trials registry).

Improving lymphoma outcomes with personal touch

Improving lymphoma outcomes with personal touch

A recent review of the latest medical advances for people with Hodgkin lymphoma has highlighted how personalised treatment is improving outcomes for patients.

Professor Maher Gandhi, the Leukaemia Foundation Chair in Blood Cancer Research at The University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute, said the new approaches were aimed at “minimising toxicity while maximising response”.

Maher Gandhi
Professor Maher Gandhi

He said while the majority of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma responded well to current treatments, a significant minority relapsed and were harder to treat.

“Novel targeted therapies are producing excellent results in clinical trials,” Professor Gandhi said.

“Not only do they provide additional treatment options for those with relapsed disease, they may also have potential in front-line therapy.”

The review highlighted the effectiveness of antibody brentuximab vedotin, which has been tested as both a single drug and in combination with other drugs among relapsed patients and those resistant to treatment.

The authors, who also included Professor Mark Hertzberg and Dr Suzanne Arulogun, also said Nivolumab and Pembrolizumab, currently used to treat other cancers, had shown outstanding results when used as single agents in heavily pre-treated Hodgkin lymphoma patients.

Professor Gandhi said individualising and adapting a patient’s treatment based on an interim PET/CT scan was also emerging as an important strategy.

“Further work is needed to explore clinical and biological factors associated with improved outcomes,” he said.

The review was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine.