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Longer Drug Therapy Helps Bone Marrow Disease Patients

'Maintenance' treatment with decitabine may improve MDS outcomes, study finds

FRIDAY, March 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Longer courses of treatment with decitabine -- a drug currently undergoing clinical trials -- may help patients with a form of bone marrow disease called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), German researchers report.

MDS is a pre-leukemic bone marrow disorder most commonly found in elderly patients.

The study included 22 patients with relapsing MDS at high risk of developing leukemia who had received initial treatment with decitabine. The patients were retreated with a median of three courses of dectabine.

According to the study, to be published in the April 15 issue of Cancer, 10 (45 percent) of the patients showed some form of response to the retreatment.

Researchers at the University of Freiburg Medical Center say the median survival time for all patients from the start of the first treatment with decitabine was 28 months. Retreated patients had a median survival time of 13 months post-relapse.

Among the 45 percent of patients who showed a response to retreatment, the quality and duration of the second response was still inferior to their response to the initial treatment. This suggests that longer initial treatments may be more beneficial to patient outcome, the researchers said.

They concluded that, "results of the present analysis point to the importance of extending therapy with low-dose decitabine beyond the point of first response, and strongly support institution of a maintenance treatment."

This extended approach is currently being studied in a multi-center clinical trial with older MDS patients.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about MDS.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, March 13, 2006
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