Available by prescription only, Campath is used in the treatment of a specific kind of leukemia. The medication is given by injection in a healthcare setting. Side effects can include infections, fever, and chills. This drug works by signaling the immune system to bind to a certain type of antigen, thereby attacking the cancer cells.
What Is Campath?
Campath® (alemtuzumab) is a prescription medication approved to treat a certain type of leukemia (cancer of the blood and bone marrow) known as B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It belongs to a group of drugs known as monoclonal antibodies.
An antibody (also known as an immunoglobulin) is a protein made by the immune system. Antibodies attach to substances in the body called antigens, marking them for destruction by the immune system.
Campath is a synthetic, or manufactured, antibody. It works by binding to CD52, a specific antigen found on the surface of a variety of white blood cells, including leukemia cells.
By binding to the CD52 antigen on leukemia cells, Campath signals the immune system to attack leukemia cells. However, CD52 is also found on healthy cells, so Campath may signal the immune system to attack healthy cells too, which can lead to potentially serious side effects.
In a clinical study, Campath was shown to extend the period of time leukemia does not progress, more so than chlorambucil (Leukeran®), another leukemia medicine. In the study, people who received Campath went about 14.6 months without their leukemia getting worse, compared with 11.7 months in people taking chlorambucil.
In addition, 83 percent of those given Campath were said to have responded to treatment (had a decrease in signs of leukemia), compared to 55 percent of people given the other medicine. For some people (24 percent), the signs of leukemia completely disappeared.
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