Improving the quality of life of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia is possible in Mexico thanks to precision medicine, which attacks only diseased cells and protects healthy ones, Dr. Eduardo Edmundo Reynoso Gómez told Efe today.
“Precision medicine can attack a specific structure and, when expressed only in the malignant cell, it does not affect healthy tissues, which is much more effective and its toxicities are milder,” said the director of the Center for Specialties. of Hematology and Oncology of the Spanish Hospital in Mexico.
The specialist explained that chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a type of slow-moving cancer in the bone marrow and blood, in which the types of white blood cells called lymphocytes become cancerous and multiply abnormally.
“Many patients have anemia, feel very fatigued and therefore seek medical attention or are more susceptible to infections due to the deficiency of normal white blood cells,” said the expert.
In more advanced stages, he said, you can notice the presence of ganglionic growths that are not usually removed with simple treatment.
This, he said, can spread to other tissues outside the bone marrow such as the liver or spleen “and that can compromise the lives of patients.”
CLL is twice as frequent in men as it is in women and the average age of diagnosis is 70 years, and detection is rare before the age of 40.
In addition, it is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults and represents 30% of leukemias and the average survival of this blood cancer varies between 10 and 12 years.
Reynoso Gómez explained that there are no exact figures on how many patients suffer from this disease, but in the United States it is estimated that there are 20,000 new cases of CLL every year, while in Mexico it could be one third of that figure.
The expert said that in some cancers chemotherapy treatments can lead, in many cases, to patients relapse into the disease.
“But this is one of the conditions where there have been more advances in terms of treatments, specifically in precision medicine,” he said.
Reynoso Gómez explained that this type of treatment is based on apoptosis, a natural mechanism programmed genetically that allows the elimination of unnecessary cells.
In this disease, he said, the principle that makes it malignant is that this mechanism of programmed cell death is the one that is genetically altered and the cells not only divide faster but accumulate “because they never die, they become immortal” .
Thus, with precision medicine it has been possible to approve a drug that can unblock or replace the missing substances that this mechanism promotes and restore the normal order, which forces the malignant cell to die correctly and does not interfere with the function of the organism.
This new therapy is for patients with CLL in whom the standard chemotherapies no longer have an effect, thus providing a life expectancy with a success of 80% of cases.
“Patients with a very poor prognosis had an important advantage that prevented the disease from progressing again,” said the expert.
Reynoso Gomez said the treatment is for two years, while conventional treatments should be for life “but with this innovation they remain controlled, despite having a very advanced disease,” he said.
This treatment, he explained, is only used in patients who relapsed “what we need is for the patient to improve survival, live longer but have quality of life,” he said.
Finally, he said that at the moment this type of treatment can only occur in patients with CLL.
“It is not for all patients with this disease but surely, over time, will occur in patients who suffer from LCC in much earlier phases,” he concluded.