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Cancer drug Gleevec damages heart, say researchers

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July 24 2006

(NewsTarget) New research has found that Gleevec, a popular cancer drug by Novartis also called Gilvec, can cause congestive heart failure in leukemia patients.

Researchers from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia conducted a five-year study of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, and found that although Gleevec can keep the leukemia in check for up to five years, it can also cause severe heart damage and even cardiac failure in users. The study, published in Sunday's issue of Nature Medicine, found that the protein Gleevec targets to combat cancer also plays an important role in maintaining healthy cardiac muscle cells.

The researchers examined data on 10 patients whose hearts failed while taking Gleevec, and found that Gleevec was harmful to the heart. However, lead researcher Thomas Force says, "The message is that patients need to stay on Gleevec."

The drug earned $2.2 billion for Switzerland-based Novartis last year, and supposedly has fewer side effects than chemotherapy. Force also says other, similar drugs have comparable side effects, and that doctors should try to keep patients taking Gleevec on the drug while controlling heart difficulties with other drugs.

Though Novartis representatives say heart failure among patients taking Gleevec are rare, critics of conventional medicine say patients would do well to seek alternative treatments. "This finding that a cancer drug causes heart failure is not surprising," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and frequent critic of conventional cancer treatments. "Conventional medicine's cancer treatments almost always harm patients more than they help them," he added. "The only people I've seen beat cancer and go on to live healthful, vibrant lives are those who turned to alternative cancer treatments and refused to submit to chemotherapy, cancer drugs or radiation treatments, none of which actually help patients heal."


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