According to a recent study, patients over 60 years of age suffering from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a form of cancer can have long time remission (an end to the signs and symptoms of the disorder) using modified donor stem celltransplantation called ‘Reduced-Intensity Conditioning’. Initially, patients older than 60 years were considered as poor candidates for the treatment using stem cell transplants due to their prohibitive health conditions and ability to tolerate high intensity chemotherapy combined with the treatment.
The new study directed by Steven Devine, MD, Director of Blood & Marrow Transplantation at Ohio State University and others completed its Phase 2 research and the results were published in the Journal Of Clinical Oncology. This study was designed to understand whether stem cell transplants can improve the rate of long term disease-free state in patients with AML between the age group of 60 years and 75 years. AML is an aggressive form of blood cancer affecting the life expectancy of patients where the 5-year survival rate is less than 10% despite of initial remission. Stem cell therapy showed successful cancer free state, thereby improving the overall survival of patients.
The phase 2 trial conducted between 2004 and 2011 had 114 patients at a median age of 65 years in 21 US hospitals and the study was funded by National Cancer Institute. In this study, all the participants received reduced intensity chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplant which was only half the treatment strength compared to the traditional high intensity chemotherapy given to younger patients. Apart from chemo and transplant, patients were also provided with medication to avoid graft versus host disease. The study result showed that 42% of the patients remained cancer free 2 years after stem cell transplantation. The previous studies showed among the patients who underwent traditional chemotherapy, only 20% of them remained cancer-free after 2 years. This new study proved to be more effective compared to the standard cancer therapy.
Devine said that this study provides a stronger support against using biological age as a limiting factor for stem celltransplants in older patients with AML. “Close to half of the patients achieved long term cancer remission after 2 years which is similar in younger patients treated with conventional chemotherapy based approach”, he added.
Now, patients of any age can undergo stem cell transplantation for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia. With more research trials, this approach can be used as a standard treatment for cancer in the future.