New Drug Helps in Fight Against Common Leukemia

Rituximab prolongs lives of people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia

MONDAY, Dec. 8, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The drug rituximab prolonged the lives of some people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), according to the findings of two clinical trials.

The trials compared the effectiveness of a combination of rituximab and the chemotherapy drug fludarabine to the effectiveness of fludarabine alone.

The studies found that, after an average of 43 months, the combination therapy increased progression-free survival by 22 percent and overall survival by 12 percent compared to fludarabine alone.

The results were presented Dec, 8 at the American Society of Hematology's annual meeting in San Diego.

"The findings are the first of any tested modern therapy to show a significant improvement in overall survival for people with CLL," study leader John C. Byrd, a medical oncologist at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, says in a prepared statement.

"The results suggest that rituximab is going to be an extremely important drug in the treatment of this disease," Byrd says.

CLL is the most common form of leukemia in adult Americans. It's estimated that 7,300 Americans will be diagnosed with CLL in 2003 and 4,400 will die of the disease, which causes no symptoms initially. It's often diagnosed through routine blood tests. The average age at diagnosis is 62 years.

Early stage patients can live 10 years or more while patients diagnosed with more advanced disease may live 18 months to three years.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Dec. 8, 2003
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