Arsenic as a therapy for rare leukemia
Researchers have been testing the use of arsenic to treat cancer for years. Now Italian and German scientists have successfully treated a special form of blood cancer (leukemia) with the combination of arsenic trioxide and a vitamin A derivative.
According to the director of the Medical Clinic and Polyclinic I at the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital in Dresden, Professor Gerhard Ehninger, to the “dpa” news agency, the treatment eliminated the cancer in just six months. The renowned cancer expert and hematologist is co-initiator of the world's largest cancer database "Onkopedia", which provides a wide range of therapy recommendations for people with cancer, which are freely accessible online, and which is based exclusively on scientifically verified information.
Blood cancer patients are spared chemotherapy The treatment of cancer with the help of arsenic is basically not a new idea, but despite several positive studies, appropriate procedures have only occasionally entered cancer therapy. An exception is the treatment of certain forms of blood cancer based on arsenic. With arsenic trioxide and a vitamin A derivative, the disease can be treated promisingly and in a much shorter time than before, according to the experts. In addition, the patients would be spared the traditional chemotherapy with its sometimes massive side effects. With previous leukemia treatment, the chemotherapeutic agents often caused long-lasting suppression of blood formation, and infections that occurred were often life-threatening, explained Prof. Ehninger. The new therapy offers clear advantages here.
Significant healing success through arsenic therapy The German-Italian research team had tested the use of arsenic trioxide in 160 patients with promyelocytic leukemia. The result was convincing. "All patients became disease-free," says Prof. After only six months, the treatment was successful, whereas conventional chemotherapy would have taken around two and a half years. According to the researchers, the cure rate was still 95 percent even three years after treatment. The survival rate, which also included the relapses, was 98 percent. Side effects, such as poisoning from arsenic, did not occur as part of the treatment, since the dose administered was minimal. At higher doses, arsenic trioxide can also lead to kidney and liver disorders, but this has not been observed in the patients. In addition, there is a very low probability of cardiac arrhythmia, "but the patients are monitored for this," explained Prof. Ehninger.
Is arsenic suitable for the treatment of different types of cancer? This extremely positive result of blood cancer therapy based on arsenic has also convinced doctors such as the Director of Internal Medicine at the University Hospital Cologne, Professor Michael Hallek. He has already taken over the combination therapy for the treatment of patients with promyelocytic leukemia in Cologne. "For us, the results are reason enough to change our behavior," the leukemia expert emphasized to the "dpa". The combined use of arsenic trioxide and the vitamin A derivative improves the prognosis for promyelocytic leukemia very significantly. However, the new method has not yet been used for other types of blood cancer. Here further studies are necessary to explore the possibilities of arsenic in cancer therapy, explained Prof. The field of application may be significantly larger than previously assumed. For example, US researchers published a study in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS), which points to options for treating certain brain tumors with arsenic variants. (fp)
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