Killing blood cancer: chronic lymphocytic leukemia

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Chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL is a blood cancer that typically occurs in older adults. (KFSN)

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL is a blood cancer that typically occurs in older adults. There is no cure, but now doctors are studying a new treatment that could stop the disease in its tracks.

Every week, 75-year-old Ed Venneberg spends five and a half long hours driving from Phoenix to San Diego. "It is about 385 miles," Venneberg said.

Venneberg makes the trek so he can participate in a clinical trial testing a therapy for blood cancer.

Venneberg told ABC30, "I think this is the fourth clinical trial I've been in."

The new trial is looking at a drug called Cirmtuzumab for a type of leukemia known as CLL.

Thomas J. Kipps, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center told ABC30, "This is the most common adult leukemia in western societies."

Cirmtuzumab is actually an antibody. It targets and attacks a protein that's normally only used by embryonic cells during fetal development. Scientists believe this same protein drives tumor growth and disease spread.

Dr. Kipps explained, "We have early data now to suggest this antibody may be effective at preventing the relapse and metastasis of cancer."

The clinical trial is a Phase I study. The antibody is given as an infusion every two weeks. Doctors believe the treatment may also help cancers of the ovaries, lungs, breast, colon, skin and pancreas. Venneberg hopes the treatment will be the answer he's been waiting for. He said, "I think there's a good chance with this drug." He says it's well worth the drive.

The antibody was developed in the lab by Dr. Kipps and colleagues. The clinical trial will accept patients with relapsed or refractory CLL.

For more information on this report, please contact:

Jacqueline Carr
(619) 543-6427
jcarr@ucsd.edu
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