Risky treatment for AML leukemia

June 9, 2009 3:16:42 PM PDT
Every month, 1,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with a type of leukemia that begins deep in the bone marrow.There is a risky treatment that can cure it, but it can be fatal.

Now, there is new information on why, for some patients, it might be worth the risk.

The type of leukemia has many names, but most commonly, it is called AML - or acute myelogenous leukemia. Acute means it can progress quickly, going from the bone marrow into the blood.

Patient Randall Burnham is now relapse free from the leukemia he was diagnosed with two years ago.

"When I was diagnosed, I was actually so sick I didn't really understand what was going on," he said.

Upon diagnosis, patients like Randall can have a chromosomal analysis, which can predict if response to treatment is likely to be good, poor or intermediate.

Chemotherapy is an option, and nearly 70 percent of patients under age 60 can go into remission with chemotherapy. But whether the cancer remains in remission for the long term remains questionable.

Randall opted for a different therapy. He had what is called an allogenic stem cell transplant.

In this procedure, healthy blood-forming cells are taken from a compatible donor and used to replace the abnormal cells in a patients bone marrow.

While the transplants have a higher risk of serious side effects, they do result in a lower rate of relapses.

Research by Dr. John Koreth finds that allogenic stem cell transplantation can clearly boost the survival rate of patients with poor and intermediate risk AML. Dr. Koreth says it's an important option for patients who have this risk label.

"It's fairly straightforward," Dr. Koreth said. "You should strongly consider an allogenic transplant rather than the alternative treatments based on the cumulative experience of several thousands of patients."

Randall received stems cells from his sister and is appreciating the new chance a life.

This type of leukemia is usually is a classic presentation. Someone starts feeling bad for a while, gums bleed, bruises develop and very suddenly and quickly, if a person gets to a doctor or hospital, leukemia is found. And it's the genetics that can determine response to the treatment.

The research is featured in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers say that the development of more sophisticated means of analyzing genetic risk will help to further pinpoint good candidates for this type of stem cell transplant.

---

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


SIGN UP FOR OUR HEALTH NEWSLETTER

USEFUL LINKS:
SEND TIP OR PHOTO  || REPORT TYPO ||  GET WIDGET

 EYEWITNESS TWITTER ||  FIND US ON FACEBOOK


Load Comments