FDA approves Gleevec as oral treatment for gastrointestinal stromal cancer

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Gleevec is one of new generation of rationally designed cancer drugs that target abnormal enzymes in cancerous cells

George Demetri, medical director of the Sarcoma Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, was the lead investigator of a clinical study that looked at using Gleevec, an oral therapy, to treat occurrences of gastrointestinal stromal tumor. GIST, as it is known, is a rare form of sarcoma that typically originates in the stomach or intestinal tract. GIST affects an estimated 5,000 Americans each year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on February 1, 2002, authorized the use of Gleevec to treat GIST. “Gleevec represents the most major advance to date for these patients who previously had no alternative other than surgery for treating this life-threatening and highly aggressive form of cancer,” said Demetri. The study also included researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, and the University of Helsinki in Finland. The research was conducted in collaboration with Novartis, the developer of Gleevec.