An international group of investigators has modified an existing drug to make it more effective in treating hematological cancers with fewer adverse effects (Souers AJ et al. Nature Med. doi:10.1038/nm.3048 [published online January 6, 2013]).
In cancer cells, navitoclax targets BCL-2, a prosurvival protein (a molecule that helps the cancer cell evade programmed cell death). But navitoclax also inhibits BCL-2–like 1 (BCL-XL), which is a related factor required for the survival of platelets. Therefore, treatment with the drug often causes thrombocytopenia.
Hampton T. Safer Cancer Drug. JAMA. 2013;309(5):431. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.269