Doctors Discover Genetic Treatment for Leukemia

Lukas Wartman's cancer inspires unique study at Washington University
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2012 2:24 PM CDT
Doctors Discover Genetic Treatment for Leukemia
Dr. Lukas Wartman, a leukemia doctor, inspired colleagues at Washington University to perform a unique and successful genetic analysis of his cancer.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Dr. Lukas Wartman may be the world's luckiest cancer patient. Stricken with fatal leukemia, he inspired colleagues at Washington University to break new ground by sequencing his genes and analyzing his RNA—a near-equivalent to DNA—for possible genetic causes of his disease, the New York Times reports. They even set other work aside and ran machines 24/7 until they struck gold: a normal gene in Wartman that was spewing massive amounts of protein and stimulating the cancer's growth.

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Wartman needed a $330-a-day kidney cancer drug called Sutent, which inhibits his specific rogue gene—so his colleagues bought him a month's supply. Now his cancer is in remission, and experts say similar genetic cancer treatments could be available in less than a decade. But ethicists say it's not fair that Wartman—along with wealthy cancer victims like Steve Jobs and Christopher Hitchens—should have access to such treatments while other patients die. “If we say we need research because this is a new idea, then why is it that rich people can even access it?” asked one professor. (Read more leukemia stories.)

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