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Could An Existing Drug Help Treat Certain Leukemias?

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Courtesy University of Cincinnati
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University of Cincinnati professor Ken Greis (right) says an existing drug may be effective in the fight against certain leukemias.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine and Children's Hospital have discovered a target in certain types of leukemia that may be treatable with an existing drug.

"We think we can just repurpose this existing drug for another indication," says Ken Greis, professor in the Department of Cancer Biology.

The next step is testing on patients.

"It's just a matter of finding the appropriate population of patients and working with our clinical colleagues to get an approval process in place through our clinical research group," says Greis. "This, theoretically, could [go to] trials within the next six months to a year."

Researchers are able to move to clinical trials so quickly because the drug is already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Ibrutinib is currently used to treat certain types of blood cancers. However, researchers say it may effectively block a mutant protein involved in severe congenital neutropenia, chronic neutrophilic leukemia, and acute myeloid leukemia.

"It's not a huge population," Greis says. "But it's a population that doesn't have an effective long-term treatment option and this would provide an opportunity for them to be treated, and perhaps even prevented from progressing into worse forms of leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia."

The findings are published in the July 5, 2018, advance online edition of Leukemia.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.