(BPT) - NBA All-Time Leading Scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is no stranger to developing strategies and game plans to overcome the obstacles he’s faced on the basketball court, but he also knows the importance of applying these skills off the court.
In 2008, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in the chronic phase, a rare form of cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which the body produces cancerous white blood cells. Abdul-Jabbar explains:
“I knew something was wrong when I started having hot flashes and breaking out in night sweats, so I went to my doctor for a check-up. When I first heard my diagnosis, I thought I’d been given a death sentence. But then I learned that because of treatment advances, I could work closely with my doctor to manage my disease.”
Patients are taking an active role in the management of their disease by working closely with their doctor to establish a personal treatment “game plan.” As a Ph+ CML patient himself, Abdul-Jabbar knows firsthand how important it is to develop a game plan for managing his disease. Abdul-Jabbar’s tips include:
Establish clear treatment goals
- It’s important to work with your doctor to establish clear treatment goals. Some things that should be considered are a timeline for achieving treatment responses and addressing any side effects. One example of a key treatment goal in CML is to reach a very low level of disease called a major molecular response, or MMR, meaning that the amount of abnormal cells in the blood and bone marrow is extremely low.
Assess your “game plan” and adjust as needed
- Abdul-Jabbar’s treatment goals, as established with his doctor, are to reach and sustain a major molecular response and to address side effects. But his plan does require continual assessment to determine if adjustments are needed. For example, after close monitoring, Abdul-Jabbar and his doctor realized that he was not reaching the treatment goals established in his initial plan in the timeframe outlined and he was also experiencing side effects such as fatigue and hand cramping. As a result, after evaluating Abdul-Jabbar’s options, he decided to switch his treatment. Since switching, Abdul-Jabbar has been able to achieve and maintain a major molecular response with fewer side effects.
Take medication as prescribed
- Taking CML medication as directed is extremely important for maintaining treatment response as well as for addressing side effects, but remembering to take medicine can be a challenge! One helpful tip may be to set a daily cell phone alarm as a reminder.
Choose players for your CML team
- It’s important to establish a CML support network. This support team should include your doctor, but can also involve other healthcare professionals such as a social worker or nurse practitioner, as well as family members and friends. Being comfortable talking openly with various people about your disease helps keep your core team connected.
Passing the ball to others in the CML community
- Communication is key! CML is still a rare disease, and many patients are learning to cope with the new reality. As a result connecting with others impacted by the disease is becoming increasingly important among the CML community. A great upcoming opportunity to connect with others is World CML Day on September 22nd, a date which represents the chromosomal abnormality known as the Philadelphia chromosome, a rearrangement in the genetic material on chromosomes 9 and 22, which is present in approximately 95% of CML patients.
In honor of World CML Day on September 22nd, Novartis Oncology, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and The National CML Society will host a free and interactive webcast event on September 18th for CML patients and caregivers. This free event will include a panel of CML experts and will focus on educating and supporting those impacted by CML, as well as providing an opportunity for participants to ask questions
For more information on CML and to register for this event, visit www.CMLPatientSummit.com.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an actual patient on Tasigna (nilotinib) capsules and is compensated by Novartis.
About TASIGNA® (nilotinib)
TASIGNA is a prescription medicine used to treat chronic phase or accelerated phase Philadelphia chromosome–positive chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML) in adults who are no longer benefiting from previous other treatments, including imatinib (GLEEVEC®), or have taken other treatments, including imatinib (GLEEVEC) but cannot tolerate them. The efficacy of TASIGNA is based on hematologic response and cytogenetic response rates.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION ABOUT TASIGNA® (nilotinib)
What is the most important information to know about prescription TASIGNA?
TASIGNA can cause a possible life-threatening heart problem called QT prolongation.
Your doctor should check your heart with a test called an electrocardiogram (ECG):
You may lower your chances for having QT prolongation with TASIGNA if you:
- Take TASIGNA on an empty stomach
- DO NOT TAKE TASIGNA WITH FOOD
- Food can affect the levels of TASIGNA in your body, which can lead to serious side effects
- Taking TASIGNA on an empty stomach may lower your chances of having a possibly life-threatening heart problem called QT prolongation
- QT prolongation causes an irregular heartbeat, which may lead to sudden death
Who should not take TASIGNA?
Do not take if you have:
- Low levels of potassium or magnesium in your blood
- Long QTc syndrome
- TASIGNA should be taken exactly as instructed by your doctor. Do not change the dose or stop taking TASIGNA unless instructed to by your doctor.
- Take TASIGNA at least 2 hours after eating any food
- After taking TASIGNA, wait at least 1 hour before eating any food
- Avoid grapefruit, grapefruit juice, and any supplement containing grapefruit extract while taking TASIGNA. Food and grapefruit products increase the amount of TASIGNA in your body
- Avoid taking other medicines or other supplements with TASIGNA that can also cause QT prolongation
- Swallow TASIGNA capsules whole with water. If you cannot swallow TASIGNA capsules whole, tell your doctor
- If you cannot swallow TASIGNA capsules whole:
- Open the TASIGNA capsules and sprinkle the contents in 1 teaspoon of applesauce (puréed apple)
- Do not use more than 1 teaspoon of applesauce
- Only use applesauce. Do not sprinkle TASIGNA onto other foods
- Swallow the mixture right away (within 15 minutes)
- Do not drink grapefruit juice, eat grapefruit, or take supplements containing grapefruit extract. It may affect the levels of TASIGNA in the blood
- If you miss a dose, take your next dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed dose
- If you need to take antacids (medicines to treat heartburn) do not take them at the same time that you take TASIGNA. If you take:
- A medicine to block the amount of acid produced in the stomach (H2 blocker): Take these medicines about 10 hours before you take TASIGNA, or about 2 hours after you take TASIGNA.
- An antacid that contains aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide and simethicone to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach: Take these medicines about 2 hours before or about 2 hours after you take TASIGNA.
Before taking TASIGNA
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all other medication(s) you may be taking, including prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements, since they may affect how TASIGNA works and increase your chance of serious and life-threatening side effects.
Tell your doctor if:
- You have a heart disorder or are taking medication for the heart
- You have an irregular heartbeat
- You have QT prolongation or a family history of it
- You have liver problems
- You know that you suffer from low blood levels of electrolytes, such as potassium, magnesium, or calcium
- You have a pancreas disorder
- You have had a surgical procedure involving the removal of the entire stomach (total gastrectomy)
Also tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or lactose-intolerant. The TASIGNA capsules contain lactose. Most patients who have mild or moderate lactose intolerance can take TASIGNA.
Serious side effects
TASIGNA may cause serious side effects including:
- QT prolongation. Call your doctor right away if you feel lightheaded, faint or have an irregular heartbeat while taking TASIGNA. These can be symptoms of QT prolongation, a possible life-threatening heart problem
- Low blood counts. Low blood counts are common with TASIGNA. Your doctor will check your blood counts regularly during treatment with TASIGNA. Symptoms of low blood counts include:
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
- Blood in urine or stool
- Unexplained weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Liver damage. Symptoms include yellow skin and eyes
- Pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis). Symptoms include sudden stomach area pain with nausea and vomiting
- Bleeding in the brain. Symptoms include sudden headache, changes in your eyesight, not being aware of what is going on around you and becoming unconscious
- Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS). TLS is caused by a fast breakdown of cancer cells. TLS can cause you to have:
- kidney failure and the need for dialysis treatment
- an abnormal heart beat
Your doctor may do blood tests to check you for TLS
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. Your doctor may change your dose. Your doctor may have you stop TASIGNA for some time or lower your dose if you have side effects with it.
Common side effects
Most patients experience side effects at some time. Some common side effects you may experience include:
- Low blood count
- Stomach (abdominal) pain
- Muscle and joint pain
- Back pain
- Muscle spasms
- Hair loss
- Runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat
Be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any side effects during treatment with TASIGNA. You are encouraged to report side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
It is not known if TASIGNA is safe or effective in children.
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. TASIGNA may harm your unborn baby. If you are able to become pregnant, you should use effective birth control during treatment with TASIGNA. Talk to your doctor about the best birth control methods to prevent pregnancy while you are taking TASIGNA.
Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if TASIGNA passes into your breast milk. You and your doctor should decide if you will take TASIGNA or breastfeed. You should not do both.
If you take too much TASIGNA, call your doctor or poison control center right away.
Your doctor will check your heart, do regular blood tests, and take bone marrow samples during treatment with TASIGNA. These are done to check for side effects with TASIGNA and to see how well TASIGNA is working for you. Your doctor should check your blood to monitor the amount of blood cells (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets) during treatment. These should be checked every 2 weeks for the first 2 months and then monthly thereafter or as considered necessary by your doctor.
Please see the full prescribing information including the Boxed WARNING, and the TASIGNA Medication Guide.