New cancer drug approved to treat leukemia

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A new cancer-fighting drug meant to help treat leukemia and solid tumors was approved by the European Union.

Made by Novartis, Glivec has been approved for use in adult patients with lymphoblastic leukemia in combination with chemotherapy, the company said in a statement. It was initially approved to treat patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia.

The medication works by attacking tyrosine kinases, abnormal proteins found in cancer cells, and is now approved in more than 90 countries, including the United States, E.U. members and Japan.

“Understanding the targets against which Glivec works has led to the unique opportunity to treat two rare diseases that have Glivec-sensitive pathways,” said David Epstein, president of Novartis Oncology, in a statement. “These two new indications underscore how cancers and diseases of different origin and location share common molecular characteristics that can often respond to the same targeted treatment.”

Glivec was also approved to treat patients with unresectable, recurrent or metastatic dermatofibroscarcoma protuberans who are not eligible to have surgery.

Novartis has submitted other requests to the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking that they approve Glivec for other diseases, including hypereosinophilic syndrome, systemic mastocytosis and myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative diseases.