A new treatment for leukaemia developed in Australia has been fast-tracked for use in the US and EU. The drug Venetoclax is a targeted therapy designed to prevent the perpetual growth and replication of cancer cells.
By blocking BCL2, a protein produced by cancer cells making them immortal, Venetoclax stops the cells from being able to replicate indefinitely, allowing them to succumb to cell death in the same way that normal, non-cancerous cells do.
Professor John Seymour, of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre involved with the trial of Venetoclax explains that "Cells, when they are born, are destined to die and cancer cells and particularly leukaemia cells delay that death by using a protein called BCL2 that stops the normal time of death,"
"Venetoclax works by specifically blocking the action of that BCL2 and allows the cells to die in the way that they were destined to."
In the trial overseen by Professor Seymour nearly four out of five patients had a positive result, with complete remission for one in five patients. Often times, these were patients that had not responded to the usual treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
It is hoped that venetoclax will offer a new treatment option to people with relapsed or difficult to treat leukaemia which is why countries like the US and other European countries have fast tracked the approval process so that patients can benefit from this drug as soon as possible. Interestingly, despite the drug being developed in Australia, the AUstralian agency for approving drugs, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), is yet to approve Venetoclax for use by Australian patients.