Medical Marvels: Life-saving treatment for chronic leukemia

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Doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian gave Robert Frank Azopardi a trial drug for his Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. (WABC)

WABC is taking you inside NewYork-Presbyterian for a look at some extraordinary stories that we call Medical Marvels. It's WABC's Emmy-nominated digital series exclusive to abc7NY.

In 2000, Robert Frank Azopardi went in for a routine exam and was shocked to be given a diagnosis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, also known as CLL. He was treated in Florida and grew increasingly resistant to the chemotherapy. Finally he was told he had three months to live and should arrange for hospice care.

Lucky for him he sought a second opinion at NewYork-Presbyterian and Dr. Richard R Furman advised him that he might be a good candidate for a clinical trial. Robert was one of the first patients to receive ibrutinib, which has subsequently been approved by the FDA. Ibrutinib is a novel agent that has changed the paradigm of CLL and Lymphoma management.

Robert demonstrated an excellent response and remained in remission for five years. At that time, his CLL became resistant to ibrutinib and subsequently progressed. Fortunately, another clinical trial featuring the drug venetoclax became available. It worked through a different mechanism and was highly effective.

Robert has only one thing to say about NewYork-Presbyterian, "They turned my whole life around."

Click here for more information on Dr. Richard R Furman, Associate Professor of Hematology and Oncology, NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.

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