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Striving to vanquish leukaemia: Combination of two compounds shows promise in the lab

Cancer cells are escape artists by nature. They can dodge drugs designed to cripple them due to one of their defining characteristics: their genetic makeup changes rapidly. Cancer cells are constantly evolving, and, given the right mutation, they’re able to evade treatment.

Scientists are working to block their ability to escape by applying more than one compound to tumors at a time. New combinations may thwart the evolution of drug resistance and may one day achieve a cure. Lab data published this week (link is external) in Nature support this strategy for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Working with mice with an aggressive form of CML, Novartis scientists tested a carefully designed combination of two molecules—a drug already approved for use in cancer patients, plus an investigational one called ABL001. The combination mounts a two-pronged attack on an abnormal protein that’s found in the cancer cells. In response to the investigational treatment, the tumor cells disappeared from the mice and never returned. It remains to be seen whether such a combination could be safe and effective in humans.

Read Novartis' press release here