Leukemia Chronic Myelogenous Experimental Treatment

New cancer treatments for chronic myelogenous leukemia include more effective medications, safer approaches to stem cell transplants and even the possibility of a CML vaccine.

Genetics and New Cancer Treatments

The discovery of the Philadelphia chromosome and its relationship to chronic myelogenous leukemia was a significant milestone in clinical cancer research. Identifying the abnormal chromosome paved the way for the development of imatinib, a medication that transformed CML from an almost certain death sentence to a treatable condition with high survival rates.

Clinical cancer research continues to improve chronic myelogenous cancer treatments and further scientists’ understanding of leukemia at the genetic level.

Clinical Trials and Kinase Inhibitors

Tyrosine kinase proteins trigger the rapid growth and reproduction of chronic myelogenous leukemia cells. Imatinib is a kinase inhibitor, a medication that blocks the action of these proteins.

Imatinib is one of several kinase inhibitors, along with dasatinib and nilotinib. Ongoing clinical cancer research is examining the relative effectiveness of each kinase inhibitor, and whether the different medications work better alone or in combination.

Vaccines and Clinical Cancer Research

Scientists involved in clinical cancer research are currently studying the effectiveness of a cancer vaccine for chronic myelogenous leukemia. Unlike established immunizations, a cancer vaccine would not prevent CML. Instead, the vaccine would help the body’s immune system target cancer cells during cancer treatment. Clinical trials for cancer vaccines are underway.

New Approaches to Stem Cell Transplants

Two new stem cell cancer treatments are under investigation in clinical trials:

  • Stem cell “mini-transplants:” Stem cell mini-transplants use lower doses of chemotherapy or radiation. Some people, such as those in poor health and the elderly, who may not be able to withstand the high chemotherapy and radiation doses required for standard stem cell transplants could now tolerate lower doses.

    A mini-transplant is an allogenic stem cell transplant, meaning health stem cells are harvested from another person and transplanted to the CML patient. In a mini-transplant, lower, less toxic levels of chemotherapy destroy some of the patient’s bone marrow, reduce the number of cancer cells, and suppress the immune system to prevent reaction of the reintroduced stem cells.

  • Tandem transplants: A second stem cell procedure known as a tandem transplant is also being investigated. Instead of a single course of chemotherapy, a tandem stem cell transplant uses multiple courses of chemotherapy and stem cell transplants with a break between the two courses. Clinical trials are in progress to study tandem transplants and their use in several types of cancer.

Participating in a Clinical Trial

The decision to participate in a clinical trial is a very personal one. For many people, current chronic myelogenous leukemia treatments are sufficient to control the disease. People who receive no relief from current treatments may wish to access new cancer treatments only available through clinical cancer research.

Not all clinical trial participants receive the treatment under investigation. Those who do not do, however, receive care from leaders in cancer research. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be interested in participating in a clinical trial.


American Cancer Society. (2010). What’s new in chronic myeloid leukemia research. Retrieved September 29, 2010, from http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/Leukemia-ChronicMyeloidCML/OverviewGuide/leukemia-cml-overview-new-research.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Chronic myelogenous leukemia. Retrieved September 30, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chronic-myelogenous-leukemia/DS00564.

National Cancer Institute. (2008). Bone marrow transplantation and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation. Retrieved September 29, 2010, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/bone-marrow-transplant.

U.S. National Institutes of Health. (2010). Vaccine therapy in treating patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myelogenous leukemia. Retrieved September 29, 2010, from http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00466726.