DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS

U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command &
Fort Detrick Public Affairs/Marketing Office, Fort Detrick, Maryland


July 7, 2003

Department of Defense Awards $9 M for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Research

The Department of Defense Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Research Program (CMLRP) has finished negotiating research awards totaling over $9 million for the fiscal year 2002 program. One of the central issues for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), which manages the CMLRP, was how to extend the efficacy of effective therapies currently in use, as well as support researchers in the development of new drugs and interventions.

Imatinib, or GleevecÒ, as it is widely known by patients living with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), is one of the most promising drugs ever developed for the control of cancer. A rare success story, CML therapy has dramatically improved clinicians' ability to control this disease in its early phases. However, it has its limitations. According to CMLRP program manager, Colonel Melissa Forsythe, "Imatinib has been remarkably successful in the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia, yet it is not effective in all patients, and resistance often develops. For these reasons, further therapies are imperative."

While some patients do indeed develop resistance to therapy after an initial period of remission, for some reason others do not experience any benefit at all. Recognizing this, last spring, the CDMRP convened a panel of stakeholders and Integration Panel members to set forth a research agenda focusing on understanding how resistance to Imatinib arises and what sort of "rescue" therapies can be developed. In addition, although Imatinib is powerful in its own right, it is not a cure. Therefore, the real issue for the CMLRP is to expand current therapeutics, such as GleevecÒ , ultimately curing CML, or develop combinations or entirely new therapies to do this.

The research was very promising. The CDMRP made ten awards for this program, totaling $9.25 M. Due to the outstanding number of proposals received, both the FY02 and FY03 appropriations were combined into a single funding pool. In so doing, considerable administrative costs were saved, leaving more money for actual research, much of which was directly translatable to the clinical setting. For example, researchers at the University of Texas-Southwestern will be investigating new drugs which, in combination with GleevecÒ may be more effective in treating CML, particularly in GleevecÒ-resistant patients. Other investigators at Yale plan on looking at immunotherapy in the different phases of CML to explain why the chronic phase seems to be so much more responsive to therapy. In addition, researchers at Scripps Research Institute plan on investigating a new procedure to modify proteins which may enhance the effects of interferon in CML treatment. While current therapies for CML are promising, a cure is still to be found. That remains the goal of this program.

Abstracts for all of the FY02 awards may be viewed in detail by accessing the CDMRP web site http://cdmrp.army.mil.

Point of Contact: Gail Whitehead, 301-619-7783, gail.whitehead@amedd.army.mil