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Scleroderma Study at Northwestern Will Test Anticancer Drug

Recent research by investigators at the Feinberg School of Medicine has shown that the anticancer drug imatinib may be effective in reducing the abnormal skin changes associated with scleroderma.

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February 5, 2008 | by Marla Paul
CHICAGO – Scleroderma, characterized by hardening of the skin and internal organs, is a chronic disease that is often classified as an autoimmune disorder. Scleroderma affects an estimated 300,000 people in the United States, most frequently young to middle-aged women.

There is currently no cure for scleroderma and less than 50 percent of patients with the aggressive form survive more than 10 years.

Recent research by investigators at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine has shown that the anticancer drug imatinib (Gleevec) may be effective in reducing the abnormal skin changes associated with scleroderma.

Northwestern's Scleroderma Program is launching a clinical study to investigate the effect of imatinib in reducing skin thickness in individuals affected by scleroderma. The study, funded by Novartis, is headed by John Varga, M.D., the John and Nancy Hughes Distinguished Professor in Rheumatology at the Feinberg School and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Researchers are recruiting study subjects. To be eligible, participants must be adults and have active scleroderma. The study will consist of daily oral doses of imatinib taken for one year. Participants will be evaluated initially on a weekly basis at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Qualifying participants will be reimbursed for travel and involvement in the study.

For more information on the scleroderma imatinib study at Northwestern, contact Julie Johnson, project coordinator, at (312) 503-2338.