(09/23/13) - From certain death, to a second chance. An experimental
treatment is bringing hope to people with a common form of Leukemia.
It is the simple things, like enjoying the outdoors and taking family vacations, that 73-year-old Dennis Hickey says he can look forward to once again, "I can do my job, I sell houses. I can enjoy the grand kids."
Dennis has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, or CLL, a common and deadly form of Leukemia affecting older adults.
"The prognosis was not good," Dennis says.
But, with six months to live, he got to take an experimental drug called Ibrutinib, as part of a clinical trial for CLL patients.
"We've seen a drug come into the clinic that has really helped patients with CLL and related diseases that have been at the end of their life."
The drug works by targeting the protein in CLL cells. Without the protein, the cancer can not grow. Doctors say 90 percent of patients have had success with Ibrutinib. and side effects are minimal compared to chemotherapy.
"Patients tolerate it very, very well. Kany patients will say they feel like they did before they had CLL," says Dr. John C. Byrd of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Researchers say Ibrutinib is a game changer.
Dennis Hickey agrees, "I'm still here. I look, I look back to it and say 'boy, I've been blessed,' and I'm so thankful."
Researchers say Ibrutinib is not a cure, but if patients follow treatment, they can manage CLL the same way they would manage diabetes or high blood pressure. The drug is expected to gain FDA approval in early 2014.
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