NewsCovering Colorado


New Leukemia treatment shows promise for older patients

Posted at 4:47 AM, Apr 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-15 06:48:43-04

(KUSA) Penni Shuey knows that she can rely on her sister Shannon Waigand, especially when times get tough.

“I was diagnosed January 15, 2019,” said Shuey. “I had been sick for a couple of weeks. I thought I had the flu. I was very tired and my throat kind of hurt.”

“When she went into the hospital, I immediately drove out that day,” said Waigand. “She’s not lying when she said she was at death’s door.”

Shuey was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – an aggressive type of cancer that can affect every organ of the body. It’s traditionally treated with high-intensity chemotherapy.

“I was scared of leaving my family behind and I knew I was dying. I could feel it,” said Shuey.

At age 52, it was a diagnosis Shuey wasn’t ready for.

“Chemo was not a choice. That’s a choice I wanted to make for myself.”

Dan Pollyea, an oncologist working with the Colorado University Cancer Center and UCHealth, hopes to offer Shuey an option — an FDA approved clinical trial of a new treatment that targets leukemia stem cells.

“The average age of diagnosis with this disease is 68, and what we know is that older patients do really poorly with really intensive chemotherapy,” Pollyea said.

Pollyea said the treatment is a combination of two therapies. One is a pill and the other is a low-dose, low-intensity chemotherapy regimen.

“When we combine these two regimens, just this pill and the low-intensity chemo, we found that we can get most of our patients into a response of remission, that these remissions can last a very long time and that this is very well tolerated,” said Pollyea. “Ninety-one percent of our patients ended up having the responses.”

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