UCI Health clinical trial targets recurrent AML

July 15, 2020
Dr. Deepa Jeyakumar is a UCI Health oncologist who specializes in the research and treatment of blood cancers as well as in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

UCI Health oncologist Dr. Deepa Jeyakumar is leading a novel clinical trial to prevent a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.
Photo: UCI Health

The UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer has launched a first-in-the-nation clinical trial combining two recently approved drugs to prevent recurrence of adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in patients with myelodysplastic changes or therapy-related AML.

The investigator-initiated clinical trail led by oncologist Dr. Deepa Jeyakumar is adding the stem-cell drug glasdegib, which comes in pill form, to a chemotherapy regimen called Vyxeos (daunorubicin and cytarabine). Vyxeos has shown improved overall survival and response rates in older patients.

By adding glasdegib, Jeyakumar is hoping for better, longer last results. Glasdegib, currently given to patients who aren’t healthy enough to undergo chemotherapy, targets what is known as the hedgehog pathway, and signals leukemia cells to die. Both drugs are approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). 

The phase 2 clinical trial is studying patients whose AML evolved from a prior blood problem or from previous treatments, such as chemotherapy.

“As a leukemia doctor, I’ve had many patients who have trouble getting to remission or staying long enough in remission to go forward to a bone-marrow transplant,” said Jeyakumar, associate professor in the UCI School of Medicine’s Division of Hematology/Oncology.

“We recently got approval to use both of these agents. Together, they could be a more effective therapy to whack down leukemia and wipe out any leukemia stem cells in the bone marrow.”

AML, a cancer of the bone marrow and blood, is the most common leukemia in adults and its incidence increases with age. It may occur in people with preexisting blood disorders and after chemotherapy for treatment of other cancers.

The two-year trial, which is currently enrolling patients, is expected to expand to the four additional cancer centers in the University of California’s Cancer Consortium in coming months.

“This study is a really exciting opportunity to change the landscape of a very difficult-to-treat disease,” Jeyakumar said.

The Phase 2 trial is now enrolling patients. For more information, contact Jeyakumar at djeyakum@hs.uci.edu


UCI Health System is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, California. The 418-bed acute care hospital, listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for the 20th consecutive year, provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, and behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centerhigh-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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