The Venetoclax drug that the Roche pharmaceutical company developed received its approval from the FDA to be used as a breakthrough therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Venetoclax is a medicine meant to help a specific type of CLL patients, particularly those that have a 17p deletion abnormality in their genetic code.
These patients have a poor response to other current treatments and their prognosis is very poor. It is also seen as the final solution for those whose leukemia has relapsed. Needless to say the pressure is high for this drug to work in the right parameters.
What is CLL?
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is defined as the cancer that affects lymphocytes, also known as white blood cells, while they reside in the bone marrow. Through massive multiplication, cancer cells that mimic white blood cells start to crowd the body of the patient.
Because the symptoms only appear after enough sick white blood cells are created so as to affect organs, the disease can go undetected for a long period of time.
Nowadays, scientists discovered that there are in fact two types of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The gentler one, which progresses slowly and the patients rarely need any medication. The prognosis for these patients is quite good, meaning that they can survive for at least fifteen years even if they are diagnosed with cancer.
The aggressive type of CLL is quite dangerous and the cellular growth rate in this type of cancer is exponential. For patients with this type of chronic lymphocytic leukemia , the life span is severely reduced to around eight years and most means of current treatment fail.
Many medical experts have suggested that there is only one type of cancerous cell that gives rise to the exponential growth found in CLL. However, over the years, it has been proven that, for each type of CLL, there is a specific cell type at fault.
As most leukemias, CLL affects people who are either old or quite young. However, it appears that the prototype for this type of cancer (more than 75%) is a male over 50 years of age.
Venetoclax comes at a great aid for those afflicted by this illness and although it is not commercially available yet (and won`t be in the near future), it will be used by doctors to help many people with CLL.
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