Phase I trial finds experimental drug safe in treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia
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Reporting results from a first-in-human phase I clinical trial, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have found that treatment with cirmtuzumab, an experimental monoclonal antibody-based drug, measurably inhibited the “stemness” of chronic leukemia cancer (CLL) cells — their ability to self-renew and resist terminal differentiation and senescence.

The findings are published in the June 1 issue of Cell Stem Cell.

“In this trial, we treated 26 patients with relapsed CLL with increasing amounts of cirmtuzumab, which we found was exceptionally well-tolerated. Patients received only a short-course of treatment and this appeared to halt disease progression, allowing most patients to forego any additional therapy for more than eight months,” said Michael Choi, MD, assistant clinical professor and first author of the paper. “This is noteworthy as the patients who enrolled in the trial had leukemia that was getting worse and causing disruption of normal blood production or other clinical problems.”

CLL is the most common form of blood cancer in adults, resulting in a progressive and deadly overabundance of white blood cells, called lymphocytes. CLL accounts for roughly one quarter of new cases of leukemia (21,000) annually and roughly 4,500 deaths each year.

Cirmtuzumab targets a

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