Blood cancer is a big part of my life. That sounds terrible, so let me explain. As mentioned in my introductory post, I coach the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training--Hike team where I help raise awareness about blood cancers. In addition, I completed my graduate work in cancer genetics, particularly identifying mutations that cause leukemia, a blood cancer.
I realize that you don’t all have the same ties as I do, but blood cancer may play a bigger role in your life than you think.
For one, blood cancers will account for 9% of the new cancer cases diagnosed in the US this year. But, thanks to research, many blood cancers respond very well to treatment.
- Nearly half of all the new cancer drugs approved since 2000 were first approved to treat a blood cancer.
- Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most treatable forms of cancer with 88% of patients surviving at least five years after their diagnosis (five-year survival rate). The five-year survival rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 69.1%.
- Acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL) is the most common blood cancer in children, and it has an amazing five-year survival rate of 90.8% (for children under 5).
- Almost 75% of the blood cancer drugs approved since 2000 are currently in clinical trials to be used for treatment of other cancer types.
- Gleevec is a targeted therapy that was developed to treat the blood cancer chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and is also approved to treat a type of stomach cancer, called gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), and five other diseases.
For instance, the first “cancer stem cell”, the cell from which the cancer originates, was identified in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Cancer stem cells have subsequently been found in other tumors, such as breast and prostate cancer. The idea of the cancer stem cell is still being studied, but it may have huge implications for how cancer is treated.
Obviously, research on one disease can translate to many diseases. These types of breakthroughs can only occur if we keep funding this very important research.