Breakthrough: New treatment can fight the blood cancer without causing toxic side effects

After almost a decade of unrelenting tests and costly trials, scientists are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for treating Leukaemia. Researchers discovered an experimental drug that can fight blood cancer while minimizing harm on the body.

For the longest time, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI), which are medications for chronic myeloid leukaemia exhibit adverse side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle pain. Moreover, kinase inhibitors have been reported to stop working overtime.

Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia is a slow-growing cancer commonly affecting people with old age. In its later phase, CML acts like acute leukemia. Your body’s blast cells spread to tissues and organs beyond the bone marrow. Around 750 people are diagnosed with this disease in the UK and a whopping 9,000 in the United States.

The experimental drug Asciminib was found out to be effective when tested on patients with CML. And unlike kinase inhibitors, the drug is not as hostile for the body. The researchers who discovered the drug said that Asciminib is a breakthrough in treating CML, offering patients another option in the course of their treatment.

Experts claim that the new drug does not kill healthy cells in the process. Based on clinical trials of 150 patients, Asciminib appeared to be safe and effective—a remarkable feat considering the experiment was first done on humans.

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The newly-discovered Asciminib shuts down cancerous enzymes called kinases, decelerating the rate of blood cancer. It has almost been 3 decades since the first drug for CML called Imatinib was discovered way back in 1990. And although the medication helped thousands of people suffering from Leukaemia, 95 percent of patients who had TKI suffered from side effects such as heart failure and liver pain.

Now that Asciminib is one of the options for CML patients, the future bodes well for people who do not have any options aside from TKI. Alasdair Rankin, director for Research at Bloodwise, said how ‘amazing’ and ‘lifesaving’ it is for patients to have an alternative.

Before Asciminib came to fruition, some patients would not even consider taking TKI because of the severe side effects that can harm their cardiovascular system. “A treatment like [Asciminib] sounds like it’s been effective. It’s a first-in-man trial so they’re trying to see if it’s toxic or not. The study’s in a high-profile journal because it’s had good results.” Rankin said.

Based on raw data gathered, survival rates of patients who took Asciminib are desirable. Patients were given doses between 10mg to 200mg once or twice every day. Researchers closely monitored the participants for 14 months. Some patients experienced fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, joint pains, and low platelet counts. Others also developed pancreatitis.

Despite these results, the team who tested Asciminib considered the study a success. “The trial showed Asciminib is highly effective, even in patients who’d failed to respond to several other TKIs.” Professor Hughes, one of the lead researchers, said.

Compared to TKL, the new drug has ‘significantly fewer long-term ill-effects.’ Other treatment options block proteins even those carrying out normal bodily functions, aggravating cancer cells and causing them to multiply.

With a safer and more effective drug that we hope will be soon at our disposal, more patients can break free from the shackles of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia, especially those afraid of medications causing more harm than good.