Tag Archive for: CML

Advances in Research | Emerging MPN Therapies on the Horizon

Advances in Research | Emerging MPN Therapies on the Horizon from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

The pace of research in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) is advancing rapidly, but what do patients need to know? MPN specialist and researcher Dr. Naveen Pemmaraju shares an update on the latest research and his optimism for the future of MPN care.

Dr. Naveen Pemmaraju is Director of the Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm (BPDCN) Program in the Department of Leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Pemmaraju.


Related Programs:

Thriving With an MPN: Advice for Setting Goals and Making Treatment Decisions

Thriving With an MPN | Advice for Setting Goals and Making Treatment Decisions 

Understanding MPN Treatment Options _ What’s Available for MF, PV, and ET

Understanding MPN Treatment Options | What’s Available for MF, PV, and ET?

MPN Essential Testing | How Results Impact Care & Treatment Options

MPN Essential Testing | How Results Impact Care & Treatment Options


Katherine Banwell:

Dr. Pemmaraju, as a researcher, what are new and emerging therapies on the horizon in MPN care?  

Dr. Pemmaraju:

Well, Katherine, I’m glad you asked because I’m proud to tell you here, at the end of 2023, that we’ve now entered a new golden era of therapies for MPNs. Your group, and others, have led the way in advocating, but for so many years, honestly, we didn’t have many breakthroughs or new medicines. And now we literally have something we’re hearing about once a month. I think this golden era is divided into four buckets, Katherine, and that’s why I’m so excited for our patients and their caregivers. Number one is novel JAK inhibitors. So, beyond the approved ruxolitinib, fedratinib, and now pacritinib, we have a fourth one that’s under consideration, that’s called momelotinib.  Hopefully, we’ll have that approved by the end of the year. 

 [Editor’s Note: Momelotinib (Ojjaara) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Sept 15, 2023 for the treatment of intermediate- or high-risk myelofibrosis, in adults with anemia.] 

And there are actually other drugs around the world. So, not just in the U.S. and North America that are being developed as a further JAK inhibitor. So, just like we’ve seen in CML with the TKIs for BCR-ABL after the imatinib (Gleevec) medicine, hopefully, we have seven to 10 choices for our patients.  

Number two is the combinatorial approach of a JAK inhibitor plus something else. And that’s a field that I’m personally very involved in and helping to lead. The concept there is you take the known workhorse drug, the JAK inhibitor, use it as the backbone, and then add in the second agent. We started to do those studies in patients who were already starting to lose a response and we added in the second agent, those were called suboptimal studies. And then now we’re moving those drugs into the frontline setting in international global randomized studies. So, stay tuned, let’s see how those go.

But the concept is, can you take a new agent, whether it’s a BET inhibitor, a bromodomain inhibitor, a Bcl-xL inhibitor, PI3 Kinase, et cetera, and combine it with the JAK inhibitor? The third bucket that’s even more exciting to many people is that of novel agents standing alone by themselves. Now you’ve had either a JAK inhibitor or some other therapy for your myelofibrosis. That didn’t work for whatever reason. Now you’re looking for a completely new strategy.   

An explosion of research, not just in the lab, which we’ve had for the last 10 years, but over the last three or four years, amazingly, even despite the COVID pandemic. I would say dozens, really dozens of trials that are what you would consider beyond or non-JAK inhibitor therapy. Some of them include telomerase inhibition, with the imetelstat agent, for example.

And so the concept here is, can you now hit the myelofibrosis in a completely different pathway? And the answer clearly is yes. And those results have been tested now in the lower stages, the earlier stages, Phase I and II. And you’re starting to see those drugs enter into the phase two and phase three. We eagerly await those results if there can be a viable beyond JAK inhibitor. And then finally, if that wasn’t exciting enough, there’s a fourth bucket, which is thinking about specifically the anemia myelofibrosis. We’ve never really historically done that. We’ve had older drugs, danazol (Danocrine), steroids, growth factor shots, blood transfusions.  

But now here you see both pharmaceutical interest, as well as academic interest, in developing agents that either specifically target the anemia of MF or both, the MF and the anemia. And that could be a game changer for our patients in the next five years. So, Katherine, a wealth of exploding research that I’m personally very excited about that gives me and our field hope, momentum, and enthusiasm going into 2024.   

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) Patient Profile

You would never know that the subject of this Patient Profile is living with cancer, and that’s exactly the way he likes it. Very few people know this patient’s story, even though he’s been living with chronic myeloid or myelogenous leukemia (CML), an uncommon cancer of the bone marrow, for almost 8 years. He is the very definition of an empowered patient. He’s informed, involved, and utilizes the resources available to him. If cancer were a bull, he definitely would have taken it by the horns. He prefers to remain anonymous, but he believes so strongly in being an empowered patient, that he agreed to share his story to encourage others to take control of their own cancer care.

It was March 2013, when he went in for an MRI on an unsatisfactory hip replacement, that his cancer journey began. When the report came back it said that there was a bone marrow infiltration with a high probability of malignancy. “The word malignancy stuck out to me,” he says. He had no symptoms at the time, but he couldn’t ignore the report and knew he needed to take immediate action.

His first step was to confirm that he did indeed have cancer. Coincidentally, he was pretty well connected with a prominent oncologist who diagnosed him with CML, told him it was easily treatable, and referred him to another doctor for treatment.

Not being the kind of guy to accept his fate without thoroughly gathering information, he decided to get a second opinion, and was able to do so through another connection he had. The second doctor confirmed the diagnosis and the doctor referral.

Satisfied that he was in the best possible hands for his specific cancer, he began treatment taking one of the four tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) medications commonly used to treat CML. Unfortunately, he started having intolerable side effects so, in August 2014, his doctor switched him to another TKI. While taking the new medication, he says his liver enzymes went through the roof and he was becoming concerned that he was running out of treatment options. However, once again, he was able to use his connections to get dosage instructions directly from the drug manufacturer, and with a simple shift in dosing, his problem was fixed. His liver enzymes returned to normal and he’s been living well ever since. “If I had to get a bad disease,” he says, “I got the right kind.”

His proactive nature toward his health was essential to the positive outcome he’s living with today. In addition, his connections to high-quality doctors gave him an advantage. He is grateful for that, but he’s also acutely aware that not everyone has the same advantages, and that’s why he appreciates the value of Patient Empowerment Network (PEN). He came across the free programs and resources available on the PEN website while doing his own research about CML. He believes that anyone who is sick should use whatever resources are available to get all the information they can. “The Patient Empowerment Network is a source of information and potential support,” he says. “I’ve told my friends and doctors about PEN because I want to help other people. To fail to do so would be a shame.”

He feels a sincere and urgent duty to pay forward his good fortune and credits that sensibility to his parents and his Jewish heritage. Describing himself as only moderately observant from a religious standpoint, he says he was raised to subscribe to the philosophy that there are only two kinds of Jews. “You either need charity or you give it,” he explains. In his life, he’s been fortunate financially, and so he feels compelled to give. “It’s just who I am, I thank my parents,” he says.

His charitable giving is also motivated by personal loss. His first wife died from an aggressive form of breast cancer, and he later lost a very close friend to myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which he refers to as a death sentence. The pain of that loss continues to be palpable and has driven him to set up a foundation, named after his friend, at a leading cancer center that does cutting edge research on MDS, a group of rare and underdiagnosed bone marrow disorders.

Now at 76, with his CML in remission, he’s vibrant and busy and has no intention of slowing down. He continues to stay up to date on CML research because he believes it’s important to be informed about his disease. He serves in a one-on-one mentor program for cancer patients, and he also takes evening courses learning about topics such as the United States Constitution and the Federalist Papers. “I’m lucky,” he says. “With CML I will die with it, not from it.”