MAYWOOD, IL – After seeking treatment for extreme fatigue and bruising, Sue Hornacek was diagnosed with one of the deadliest cancers – acute myeloid leukemia (M3).
Untreated, most patients with this uncommon form of leukemia live only about two months. Mrs. Hornacek was saved by a treatment at Loyola University Medical Center that combined arsenic with a form of vitamin A.
In crime novels, arsenic is a favorite poison. But when arsenic is administered at a lower dose as a cancer treatment, it has few side effects. And in patients with Mrs. Hornacek’s subtype of leukemia, the arsenic-vitamin A combination treatment has a cure rate of between 80 and 85 percent.
“This is an example of what cancer treatment should be,” said Mrs. Hornacek’s physician, Sucha Nand, MD.
“Dr. Nand is a kind, understanding and very thorough doctor who explained every step of my journey to me,” Mrs. Hornacek said. “I truly believe that he and my nurses saved my life.”
Mrs. Hornacek is in complete remission, feels great and is returning to work full time as a real estate agent. She said that throughout her treatment, she was greatly helped by John Hornacek, her husband of 54 years; four sons, including eldest son Jeff, who is head coach of the New York Knicks; daughters-in-law; 10 grandchildren; sister Bev and brother-in-law Pete; and many friends.
“Each and every one of them has been a huge support,” Mrs. Hornacek said.
Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood that progresses rapidly without treatment. Acute myeloid leukemia (M3) is an especially aggressive subtype that also is known as acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Mrs. Hornacek was treated with a combination of ATRA (all trans retinoic acid) and arsenic trioxide. ATRA, a form of vitamin A, is taken orally. It causes leukemia cells to mature into healthy white blood cells. Arsenic trioxide, which is injected, causes leukemia cells to die in the normal fashion, a process called apoptosis or programmed cell death.
Arsenic has been used in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. And it was Chinese researchers who first reported that arsenic and ATRA are effective against acute myeloid leukemia (M3). Among the members of the Chinese research team was Jiwang Zhang, MD, PhD, who now is an associate professor in the department of pathology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Loyola was among the centers that participated in clinical trials several years ago that confirmed the ATRA-arsenic combination is effective in treating acute myeloid leukemia (M3). The therapy has become standard treatment.
Loyola Medicine is nationally recognized for its expert team of specially trained cancer doctors who come from a wide variety of clinical specialties, such as surgery, radiation therapy and medical oncology. These multidisciplinary specialists provide the expertise, translational research experience and compassionate care needed to diagnose and treat cancer. They work together, taking a collaborative approach to cancer care.