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Treatment Outcomes For Leukaemias

Tuesday March 8 2005

New Drugs And Genetic Analysis Improve Treatment Outcomes For Leukaemias

The President of the British Society of Haematology will be speaking about latest treatments for leukaemia and lymphomas during his visit to the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Otago University, and at the annual meeting of the N.Z. Society of Haematology in Auckland. His public lecture at the School will be on March 10 at 7.30pm in the Rolleston Lecture Theatre.

Dr Archie Prentice is a leading haematologist based in Plymouth, UK. He has been closely involved in research into improved medication for leukaemias and lymphomas and other blood diseases over the last 30 years. In that time there has been continuing progress in the treatment of leukaemia, particularly for the most vulnerable, those under 60 years. Continuing drug trials are providing an ever expanding range of medication to combat the disease.

“The second half of the twentieth century is very much about the rapid acceleration in understanding and treatment of blood disease,” he says. “ With latest chemotherapy for leukaemias we are now looking at up to 80% remission, and disease-free survival rates of 50% after five years. This contrast with the 1960’s where survival rates were virtually nil with most leukaemias.”

The spectrum of new drugs also means that treatment for leukaemia can be much better targeted than in the past. “Previously the approach was much more scattergun, and less precise.”

Assisting these developments is a growing understanding of the links between genetics and disease. Genetic analysis now allows doctors to assess if someone is a good or bad risk patient and tailor treatment accordingly, by identifying gene variants or breakages, indicating that particular treatments will work better than others.

Dr Prentice will also be speaking on travel and deep vein thrombosis. He has examined international research on this condition and suggests that far fewer people may be susceptible to DVT than is often thought. He says that we still don’t absolutely know the real incidence or risk factors in travel, although research so far indicates who may be most vulnerable.

“Some people are taking aspirin before they fly, thinking this is a good idea because of publicity about DVT, but may not need to. If someone is susceptible to bleeding this may not be beneficial as one of the effects of aspirin is to act as an anti-coagulant.”

Other areas of interest he will be discussing during his visit are the positives and negatives of managing rheumatoid arthritis with chemotherapy, and manpower planning for the health service.

Dr Prentice’s visit has been supported by the Canterbury Community Trust


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