Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New study indicates arsenic could be suitable as first-line treatment in type of leukaemia


Arsenic trioxide – a highly poisonous substance best known as an effective weed killer or pesticide and notorious for being a favourite ’weapon’ of choice in murder mystery novels, is being re-invented as a treatment for a rare type of leukaemia.

It is already licensed as an orphan drug (the term for drugs intended to treat rare conditions) for patients who have relapsed after initial therapy for acute promyeloctytic leukaemia (APL).

But now, a research team led by Dr. Ardeshir Ghavamzadeh and Dr. Kamran Alimoghaddam at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran, are running a trial of its use in newly diagnosed APL patients who have received no prior therapy, and they are impressed enough with its effectiveness to suggest that it should now be considered as a first-line treatment for APL. They also believe it is likely to prove effective in other cancers such as multiple myeloma.

Dr. Ghavamzadeh, professor of medicine at Tehran University, today (Wednesday 29 September) reported at the EORTC-NCI-AACR[1] Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Geneva that two courses of the drug achieved complete remission in over 90% of the 63 patients in a Phase II study being carried out at the city’s Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Center. 88.5% of patients were still alive with a mean survival time to date of nearly 34 months. Of 11 patients who relapsed, eight went back into remission after a third cycle of treatment. Six patients in the trial have died.

APL accounts for around 10% of acute myeloid leukaemias and affects an estimated 20,000 people worldwide each year. It is a cancer of the white blood cells, characterized by a rapid accumulation of abnormal white cells in the bone marrow and the blood, resulting in anaemia, bleeding and susceptibility to infections. It occurs in people of all ages, although it is more common in older people. The five-year survival rate for patients receiving the current optimum treatment of chemotherapy plus ATRA (All Trans-Retinoic Acid – a vitamin A-based substance) is between 60 and 80 percent.

"There have been a few studies done using arsenic trioxide on a limited number of newly diagnosed patients, but we are the first group to suggest that it is acceptable as a first-line treatment," said Dr. Ghavamzadeh. "The results are comparable to ATRA with chemotherapy and in our study it has actually proved to be better than ATRA with chemotherapy. What this means is that we now have the possibility of offering APL patients a new first-line treatment that avoids conventional chemotherapy. It also means that if we have this drug and other effective drugs such as ATRA available as well, most patients will be able to avoid the need for bone marrow transplants." Arsenic compounds have been used in medicine for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Chinese and the Romans, but it was the Chinese in the 1980s that first tried it in leukaemia after finding it was the active ingredient in some traditional Chinese preparations.

The drug works by causing changes in cancer cells, inducing apoptosis – programmed cell death. It also appears to correct the gene responsible for making a flawed protein (the PML–RAR fusion protein) that causes APL.

The research team used RT-PCR2 techniques to confirm the diagnosis of APL by identifying the rogue gene in their study patients. This further enabled them to establish a new classification for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Part of the disease process in APL is due to a translocation involving chromosomes 15 and 17. Their results from the RT-PCR analysis suggested that AML should be reclassified by dividing it into two groups – APL with t(15-17) and t(15,17) negative AML. t(15-17) negative AML would then be sub-divided in line with the World Health Organization’s histologic classification system. The researchers believe that this would make sense because t(15-17) positive AML and t(15-17) negative AML have a totally different prognosis and need a different treatment approach.

Margaret Willson | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>