Ingalls Among First in Nation to Offer Investigative Drug for Leukemia

Barbara LaBarbera of Kankakee is among the first patients in the nation to benefit from an investigative drug for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

Ingalls Cancer Care is among the first in the U.S. to offer the M13-982 Study for patients with CLL, which is the most common form of adult leukemia.

The clinical trial uses the investigative drug ABT-199, a targeted therapy that attacks the cancer cells only, leaving the body's healthy cells alone. Not only does it make the therapy more effective, it dramatically cuts down on the drug's side effects. Patients take the medication daily by mouth, and most continue with therapy for the rest of their lives.

CLL is characterized by the production of atypical lymphocytes – specialized immune cells that exist in two forms: B- and T-cells. Produced in the bone marrow, these cells serve a specific function to help the body fight infection.

"The large majority of CLL cases involve mature B-lymphocytes that tend to live much longer than normal," explains Mark Kozloff, M.D., hematologist/oncologist and medical director of Ingalls Cancer Care.

"Every cancer starts with a single cell that has some defect that makes it cancerous," he added. "It becomes a problem when it passes along the same defect to its ‘offspring,' multiplying into great hordes of cancerous cells."

"The M13-982 Study targets a specific enzyme on the cancer cells to stop the over-production of white blood cells and allow them to die normally," adds Lynne Muir, R.N., Ingalls Cancer Research Nurse. "It is showing very promising results. In fact, within days of Mrs. LaBarbera's first dose, her lymphocyte count dropped by half!"

At present, Barbara, who was diagnosed with CLL in 2004, is in remission and feeling very grateful for it.

"It's like God answered my prayers," the 72-year-old retired nurse said. "Within a few days, I started feeling better."

As for being among the first patients anywhere to receive the investigative treatment that may one day become the standard for CLL patients, she adds: "If I ever do anything, I hope I can help someone else when I do it."

For more information about clinical trials available through Ingalls Cancer Care, call 708.915.HOPE (4673).

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