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Clinical trial for new treatment of rare blood cancer begins


Illustration of polycythemia vera – Credit Spanish Bioindustry Association

CANCER DIGEST – April 8, 2023 – Researchers have found that restricting access to iron in red blood cells can effectively manage a rare blood cancer, called polycythemia vera or PV. Their findings appear in the March 16, 2023 journal Blood.


Based on the findings, the researchers led by Dr. Cavan Bennett of Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia, in collaboration with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center at the University of Melbourne, have begun clinical trials.

Polycythemia vera is a rare cancer affecting about 3 in 100,000 men and 1.3 in 100,000 women in the US. It is one of a group of blood and marrow cancers called myeloproliferative neoplasms that cause overproduction of different components of blood.


In the case of PV overproduction of red blood cells produces thick blood prone to clotting that can be life threatening. There is no cure and people with PV can live 14 to 20 years with regular treatments that include weekly blood draws, to reduce the volume of blood, and blood thinners.

In preclinical studies the group found that restricting iron access to bone marrow using the hormone hepcidin reduced the severity of PV.


“The more hepcidin you have in the body, the more you restrict iron access to the bone marrow, Dr. Bennett said in a press release. “This iron restriction is critical to preventing an excess of blood cell production and this is what is crucial to alleviate the severity of the disease in PV patients.”


The researchers have begun early stage clinical trials with participating hospitals in Australia, Malaysia and the United States. The trials will examine the effectiveness and safety of using a drug called SLN124 in controlling hepcidin levels in patients with PV.


Recruitment for the clinical trial (NCT05499013) has begun. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff.


Source: WEHI press release

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