Michael Grever, M.D.
Former Associate Director, DTP

Flavopiridol is one of the more interesting drugs that we've ever worked with. It was a drug that was brought to the National Cancer Institute's attention by Dr. Ed Sausville. He was very interested in this agent because of its activity against human cancer cell lines in vitro. The program developed this and did all the pre-clinical work to get the flavopiridol into cancer patients.

And with the best planning we felt that the way to administer this drug was through a continuous infusion over three days. We also explored other shorter infusions. The opportunity that I had to look at this drug at Johns Hopkins in the clinic we looked at cancer cells removed from patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. And to be honest, the drug was thought to work with rapidly dividing cells. We were very surprised to see that this drug did have an impact on chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells that was very, very impressive.

The exciting observation that it would work in cells whether or not the patient was drug resistant or whether they were brand newly diagnosed was also of very significant interest to us. We're always looking for drugs that work in patients who have drug resistant disease. We found that this drug worked through a P-53-independent mechanism. And this is a very important mechanism of drug resistance in patients with cancer.

If it hadn't been for the National Cancer Institute's willingness to stand behind this project and follow through we might have lost one of the most active drugs in the treatment of resistant leukemia. And we haven't even completely explored yet all of the forms of hematologic malignancy that may respond to this drug. But we do know from early trials that there does appear to be responses beyond even those patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

If it hadn't been for the government's involvement and persistence in support of this, this drug would have been lost. We're very happy to say right now, though, that the pharmaceutical company that's sponsoring this drug now has regained enormous interest and is pursuing this. And so hopefully we will save the drug for patients with hematologic malignancy.