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What Is Alemtuzumab Used For?

People with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia may be given infusions of alemtuzumab as part of their treatment process. This drug mimics natural antibodies, causing the immune system to bind to a certain antigen in white blood cells, killing cancer cells as a result. Alemtuzumab is only used in people age 18 and older, as its safety and effectiveness has not been studied in younger groups.

An Overview of Uses for Alemtuzumab

Alemtuzumab (Campath®) is a prescription medication approved to treat a type of leukemia known as B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL). It comes as an injection that is given for 12 weeks. Alemtuzumab belongs to a group of drugs called monoclonal antibodies.
 
Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. It occurs when the bone marrow (the soft, middle part of the bone that makes blood cells) produces a large amount of abnormal white blood cells, called leukemia cells. These leukemia cells live longer, and eventually crowd out normal, healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This can cause infection and other problems.
 
There are several different types of leukemia. In general, the different types are grouped by how quickly the disease develops and gets worse (chronic versus acute) and by which blood cells are affected (lymphoid versus myeloid) (see Types of Leukemia).
 
B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a slowly progressing form of leukemia that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes. There are two main types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells. As its name suggests, B-CLL affects B-cells. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is more common in adults who are aged 55 and older. It rarely occurs in children.
 
The symptoms of B-CLL can vary from person to person. However, common symptoms may include:
 
  • Frequent infection
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Pain in the bones or joints
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
     
(Click Leukemia Symptoms to learn more about possible signs of this illness.)
 
Alemtuzumab is approved for use alone (as a single agent) to treat people with B-CLL. It may reduce symptoms of leukemia and extend the period of time a person is able to live without their leukemia getting worse. Some people may experience a complete disappearance of their leukemia signs. However, not everyone will respond in the same way to the medication.
 
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Alemtuzumab Drug Information

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