Dr. Charles Sawyers
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Sawyers discusses his research on acquired resistance to cancer treatments. Acquired resistance occurs when the disease relapses, during treatment, after an initial positive response to the treatment. His research focused on patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) who relapsed on the drug Gleevec. He found that those who relapse on Gleevec usually have a mutation or amplification of the BCR-ABL gene that prevents Gleevec from functioning properly.
Dr. Sawyers and others in the field discovered that inhibitors with different binding characteristics might be effective in treating CML despite Gleevec-resistant BCR-ABLE mutations. Dr. Sawyers' research contributed to the development of a new treatment option: Sprycel (dasatinib). Dasatinib was approved for Gleevec-resistant CML patients just five years after the approval of Gleevec! Dasatinib was shown to be effective against all but one of the commonly occurring BCR-ABL mutations.
Dr. Sawyers shares his vision of the not-too-distant future, when physicians will be able to offer patients a pill containing a cocktail of BCR-ABL inhibitors effective against all common mutations of the enzyme; this will dramatically reduce the likelihood of drug resistance for CML patients, and, as research suggests, could even benefit patients suffering from lung and prostate cancers.