Chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, is a life-threatening blood cancer. While it can be treated with medication, and has a high survival rate, the medication is expensive and must be taken for life. Many patients struggle to afford it or must continue to work well past retirement age to keep insurance benefits. Depending on which drug a patients takes, yearly costs can range from $60,000 to $150,000.
Research being done at the University of Wisconsin is investigating whether or not patients who go into remission can come off the costly drug. There is a risk however. Patients who have been in remission for a long time must go off the drug to be in the investigational study. For some, this is a risk they just don't feel they can take. The research is looking at ways to identify which patients will do well coming off the medication and which have a form of the disease that requires them to be on lifetime therapy.