Arsenic For Leukemia

This year in the U.S., doctors will diagnose 43-thousand new cases of leukemia. Though many of these cancers are highly curable, it can recur, even after successful treatment. Now, researchers say they've found a surprising new way to stop a potentially deadly type of adult leukemia from coming back. They give the patient arsenic. Robyn Haines has your Healthy Living. It's a notorious poison straight out of the movies. But what if your doctor wanted to give it to you? 44-year-old John Williams is being treated with arsenic to fight an acute form of leukemia called APL. It's where abnormal white blood cells grow instead of normal, healthy ones. That's where the arsenic comes in. Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center put patients on two, 5-week IV regimens of arsenic trioxide after getting standard treatment to put their leukemia in remission. Principal investigator doctor Bayard Powell says this arsenic is less toxic than chemo. 90 percent of the patients treated with arsenic were disease-free after three years compared to just 70 percent of those who didn't get arsenic. Now, John can look forward to spending a lot more time with his best friends. Eight months after a leukemia diagnosis, he's cancer-free. Obviously, the form of arsenic used in this treatment is not the same chemical they put in rat poison. This new approach is still considered experimental but is being used more frequently.