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J Clin Oncol. 2011 Jun 20;29(18):2514-20. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2011.34.7146. Epub 2011 May 16.

Success story of targeted therapy in chronic myeloid leukemia: a population-based study of patients diagnosed in Sweden from 1973 to 2008.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, SE-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden.



Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) management changed dramatically with the development of imatinib mesylate (IM), the first tyrosine kinase inhibitor targeting the BCR-ABL1 oncoprotein. In Sweden, the drug was approved in November 2001. We report relative survival (RS) of patients with CML diagnosed during a 36-year period.


Using data from the population-based Swedish Cancer Registry and population life tables, we estimated RS for all patients diagnosed with CML from 1973 to 2008 (n = 3173; 1796 males and 1377 females; median age, 62 years). Patients were categorized into five age groups and five calendar periods, the last being 2001 to 2008. Information on use of upfront IM was collected from the Swedish CML registry.


Relative survival improved with each calendar period, with the greatest improvement between 1994-2000 and 2001-2008. Five-year cumulative relative survival ratios (95% CIs) were 0.21 (0.17 to 0.24) for patients diagnosed 1973-1979, 0.54 (0.50 to 0.58) for 1994-2000, and 0.80 (0.75 to 0.83) for 2001-2008. This improvement was confined to patients younger than 79 years of age. Five-year RSRs for patients diagnosed from 2001 to 2008 were 0.91 (95% CI, 0.85 to 0.94) and 0.25 (95% CI, 0.10 to 0.47) for patients younger than 50 and older than 79 years, respectively. Men had inferior outcome. Upfront overall use of IM increased from 40% (2002) to 84% (2006). Only 18% of patients older than 80 years of age received IM as first-line therapy.


This large population-based study shows a major improvement in outcome of patients with CML up to 79 years of age diagnosed from 2001 to 2008, mainly caused by an increasing use of IM. The elderly still have poorer outcome, partly because of a limited use of IM.

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