Donation to Help CML Patients Pay for PCR Testing


Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a treatable disease, and outcomes are best when the disease is found early and when it can be monitored frequently.

There are several treatments on the market for CML, but currently none are available in an inexpensive generic form, and as a chronic disease, patients must take the medication for the remainder of their lives, which often means many years.

The costs can add up. Quickly.

Especially because truly effective treatment for the disease involves routine monitoring by way of what is called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. Ideally, patients undergo a PCR test every three months for the first three years, followed by a PCR test every three to six months, depending on how things are going.

PCR testing, which can uncover one cancerous cell among over a million non-cancerous ones, is crucial for CML patients. Louis DeGennaro, PhD, president and CEO of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, explains why:

“Routine PCR testing is critical because oncologists rely on the results to determine their patients’ clinical status of early and ongoing response to CML treatment and to help detect when patients are potentially becoming resistant to treatment, which may allow for earlier intervention. Research indicates that early response to treatment and careful monitoring correlate with better overall survival rates.”

Unfortunately, PCR testing costs anywhere from $350-$500 a pop.

This week, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company announced that it has made a charitable donation to the LLS that is meant to help patients, both insured and uninsured, pay the out-of-pocket costs involved with routine PCR testing.

Bristol-Myers Squibb most likely is not doing this simply out of the goodness of its heart. They have had a player in the CML game since 2006, Sprycel (dasatinib).

This donation will also help to fund CML awareness activities across the many local chapters of the LLS. Expect 'Sprycel' to be printed on every pamphlet, T-shirt and reusable grocery bag given away during these activities.

According to, Sprycel 100 mg tablets cost about $173 ... each. Taken daily, this adds up to about $60,000 per year. Bristol-Myers Squibb has a vested interest in keeping this patient population alive-- which, sadly, is not something that you can say about so many other major pharmaceutical companies.

“With the life expectancy of more CML patients increasing, the need for routine PCR testing is very important to ensure optimal treatment results,” says Laura Bessen, MD, Bristol-Myers Squibb's VP and Head of US Medical. “Bristol-Myers Squibb is committed to helping patients living with CML have access to this important test and to also help patients better understand why the testing is important for their long-term prognosis.”

CML is a phenomenally rare disease, with about 6,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Thanks to a growing list of treatments that began with Gleevec, there are more and more people who are living long, fulfilling lives despite CML.

Information on the financial assistance can be found at the LLS website.

Source: Bristol Bristol-Myers Squibb

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