New Blood Cancer Drug Tested Locally

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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — A newly-approved drug is giving those with a common form of blood cancer a new option–and it was tested right here in our area.

The FDA last week approved the drug called Gazyva. It’s designed to help treat those with a common form of leukemia and keep them from undergoing chemotherapy.

Betty Hemmingsen is a patient at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute where Gayzva was tested. She first showed major symptoms of the blood and bone marrow disease in 2011. Within a few months, she was working with her doctor, Jeff Sharman, and started the clinical trial.

The FDA says Gazyva works by helping certain cells in the immune system attack cancer cells. After six months of taking part in the clinical trial, Hemmingsen says her doctor told her the disease is inactive.

“I have leukemia, and I’m lucky. The drug came in time for me. It kind of all cosmically timed out, and I was lucky that Dr. Sharman participated on such a high level,” Hemmingsen said.

Gazyva was the first drug approved with the FDA’s breakthrough therapy designation. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 15,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this form of leukemia, and nearly 5,000 people die.

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