Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a rare and specific kind of cancer. Researchers are currently conducting new studies to find new treatments. Learn about the latest developments in the drugs and vaccines used to treat this disease.

About Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

CML is a rare form of cancer that starts in the blood-forming stem cells found in the bone marrow. It’s likely caused by a genetic mutation that leads these cells to produce too much of a protein called tyrosine kinase. This protein is what allows the cancer cells to grow and multiply. It can eventually take over the bone marrow and blood if left untreated.

Targeted Medications

The FDA approved the first targeted medication for CML in 2001. These targeted medications are called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Before TKIs, it was hard to treat CML, but now it’s common to achieve complete remission.

New Research

Even though current medications are very effective against CML, research for new and better treatments is underway all over the world. This is important because not every drug works for every person with CML, and sometimes a drug will stop working.

Current Drugs

Researchers are currently trying to determine which TKIs are most effective and under which circumstances. Studies are also being conducted to see how combining two or more TKIs might improve treatment success.

Adding Other Treatments

Many ongoing studies are looking at whether using TKIs along with other cancer treatments can increase their effectiveness. One of these other treatments is the drug interferon, a man-made version of a protein normally found in the body. Interferon is already used to treat certain types of cancer and hepatitis. Other add-on treatments include chemotherapy and cancer vaccines, which is an injection that can help stimulate the immune system.  

Stopping Use of TKIs

It’s still not clear whether patients can safely stop using TKIs once their CML has gone into remission. For this reason, many people continue taking the medications indefinitely. New research is looking into this question. Some TKIs have unpleasant or dangerous side effects, so stopping the drug may actually be beneficial.

Cancer Vaccines

The body considers cancer cells foreign invaders, which means that it’s possible for the immune system to fight them off. Two vaccines have already been developed to prevent cancer. One is a vaccine against the hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver cancer. The other is a vaccine against the human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer. Currently, there's research being done with a vaccine called CMLVAX100. The vaccine, along with imatinib therapy, appeared to improve effectiveness. However, more research is needed. There are several other potential vaccines that may also be effective against CML.

New Drugs

New drugs that could effectively treat CML, either alone or with current treatments, are being studied. People sometimes develop other genetic mutations in response to treatment with TKIs. There’s currently one TKI that targets this specific mutation, and more drugs are being studied.

Clinical Trials

Participating in a clinical trial has many benefits. It gives you an opportunity to play an active role in your treatment. It can grant you access to exciting new treatment options that aren’t yet available to the general public. You may even find that the cost of your treatment is covered, including access to some of the best experts in CML treatment. Participating in a trial also means that you’re helping with future CML research.

With all the new research and studies being conducted, the future for CML treatments is encouraging.