Cancer drug warning

TEXT OF STORY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: In the last five years, a class of so-called miracle drugs has emerged. That's made some forms of cancer chronic, rather than deadly. But new research suggests some of these pricey new drugs might have a dangerous side-effect. From the Health Desk at WGBH, Helen Palmer has more.


HELEN PALMER: Gleevec, a drug made by biotech company Novartis, costs about $25,000 a year. It completely suppresses leukemia in 70 percent of patients, but that's not the whole story.
THOMAS FORCE: Gleevec, while a phenomenally effective drug in leukemias can /// cause patients to go into heart failure. :

Cardiologist Thomas Force of Thomas Jefferson University says 10 patients on Gleevec suffered serious heart problems, so his team studied the drug in mice and heart cells in the lab.

Force says not only does Gleevec damage hearts in some patients, other new cancer drugs that target the same proteins could also be dangerous.

But that's not a reason to shun them, says Larry Sasich of the Licom School of Pharmacy.

LARRY SASICH: Every patient has a different level of risk that they're willing to accept.

Patients should be informed of the dangers, and carefully monitored, says Sasich. Analysts say the heart findings should spur the development of safer cancer drugs.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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