Then & Now: Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Growing Scientific Understanding Drives Transformative Advances in Treatment

  • Imatinib, the first tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), revolutionized the treatment paradigm for patients, nearly tripling the odds of survival, by targeting cancer at the cellular level.
  • But, a small number of patients did not respond or could not tolerate imatinib. And still other patients, after initially responding to imatinib, developed resistance later on. For these patients there remained a substantial need for additional treatment options.
  • Additional targeted therapies are able to effectively treat many of the recently identified mutated forms of CML by disrupting signals that lead to cancer cell growth.
  • A wide range of therapeutic options allows for more tailored treatment plans that are adapted to each patient’s particular genetic profile.
  • Today, CML patients are living close to normal life spans.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a rare form of blood cancer that most commonly affects adults in their 40s and 50s. In patients with CML, abnormal blood cells (leukemia cells) crowd out normal white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, preventing the body from carrying out normal cellular and immune functions. Approximately 5,900 cases of CML are diagnosed each year in the U.S. In 2001, the first tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) was approved, marking an important shift to targeted therapy for this devastating cancer.

Following the introduction of this revolutionary medicine, survival rates nearly tripled for CML patients. Yet, there still remained a need for additional treatment options for CML patients as the medicine did not work for every patient, and in some cases, those who may have responded initially to therapy developed resistance later on. Over the last decade, a variety of new medicines have become available for patients, offering important treatment options. A new report examines the important advances that have been made in the last ten years, as new medicines continue to transform the outlook for CML patients.