Treatment of CML is aimed at reducing the growth of abnormal white cells (leukemia cells) in the bone marrow in order to bring about a remission and control the symptoms. Treatment plans vary depending on how far the cancer has progressed and the specific characteristics of the patient.
Patients should discuss the following options with their physicians to determine which is most appropriate for their particular case.
- Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors – represents an advancement in the treatment of CML and acts directly on the cells to block their replication. Currently there are seven drugs approved in this class approved by Health Canada– Gleevec (imatinib), Teva imatinib (generic), Apo-imatinib (generic), Sprycel (dasatinib), Tasigna (nilotinib), Bosulif (bosutinib) and iClusig (ponatinib). To learn how these drugs are used in the appropriate treatment for CML please click on the link:
- Clinical trials – research studies in which patients participate to determine whether a medication or treatment is safe and effective. This may be an option for patients where standard therapies are inappropriate if they fail to respond to these therapies.
- Biological therapy– the use of special drugs that improve the body’s natural defences against cancer. Interferon is one such drug often used to boost the immune system and slow the rate of growth and division of cancer cells. Interferon is still in use today for women who want to become pregnant, or for use in combination with molecular therapy within a clinical trial setting.
- Bone marrow transplant – a procedure to replace the leukemia cells in a patient’s bone marrow with healthy cells from a donor.
The management of CML is an evolving process. New drugs, tests and strategies aimed at improving the overall treatment of CML are continuously being evaluated.