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Health Agencies Update
September 19, 2001

Smart Bomb for Leukemia

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JAMA. 2001;286(11):1306. doi:10.1001/jama.286.11.1306

Scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) report that 11 of 13 patients with hairy cell leukemia had complete remissions and two had partial remissions after treatment with a recombinant immunotoxin. The NCI scientists created this "smart bomb" by fusing an antibody to a bacterial toxin. The molecule homes in on and quickly kills hairy leukemia cells.

The investigators say the results are particularly impressive because the patients, all of whom had failed previous chemotherapy, were treated in a phase 1 clinical trial. "We expected that some patients would respond to the treatment," said Ira Pastan, MD. "But we didn't imagine in our wildest dreams that almost all of the patients would go into complete remission."