Newcastle Hospitals and University are jointly launching a large clinical trial of cancer drugs to ensure patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) get the best treatment.
Newcastle researchers will be working with the US pharmaceutical company ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, the UK National Cancer Research Institute and a number of other Universities in one of the largest leukaemia trials ever conducted in the UK.
The trial, called SPIRIT 3, will assess how to select the best treatment for someone with CML and aims to increase the number of patients who respond so well that they can stop drug treatment.
The Newcastle team will be evaluating the performance of a new drug - ponatinib – along with existing medicines imatinib or nilotinib which are already approved by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and available on the National Health Scheme (NHS). Ponatinib is being provided free for the purposes of the trial from ARIAD who are also funding the research.
About 800 people develop CML each year in the UK and there are currently over 6,000 patients with the disease. Symptoms of CML, which are usually picked up by a routine blood test may include tiredness, weight loss, headaches, visual disturbances and abdominal discomfort.
Involving 1,000 patients from more than 150 hospitals across the UK, the SPIRIT 3 trial involves patients being treated for CML in which the granulocyte white blood cells are malignant. White blood cells normally help the body fight infection.
Stephen O'Brien, Professor of Haematology at Newcastle University and a Consultant with The Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who is leading the trial says, ''By testing two well-established drugs and a new medicine we are ensuring that patients diagnosed with CML get the most effective treatment allowing them the best quality of life for longer.
''We know existing drugs are effective but they don't work as well as they might for one in five patients with CML. We need to establish whether we can improve treatment by switching selected patients to ponatinib.''