Buddy Check9: Blood cancer

Joining us is Dr. Tara Gregory from Colorado Blood Cancer Institute and survivor Zach Forestor to tell us why it's important to catch the disease early.

KUSA - This month we are focusing on blood cancers as part of our Buddy Check9 efforts.

“It is never a good time to get cancer, but it is a phenomenal time to be fighting it,” said Dr. Louis J. DeGennaro, president and CEO of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

As the name suggests, blood cancers affect the production and function of blood cells; most of these cancers start in the bone marrow where blood cells are produced.

In cancer, the normal blood cell development process is interrupted by uncontrolled growth of an abnormal type of blood cell. These abnormal cells prevent the body from performing many of its functions, such as strengthening the immune system and preventing serious bleeding.

There are three main types of blood cancers:  leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Each type is unique in how it targets the body. Leukemia, for instance, has four main types, each targeting the body’s blood forming tissues.

Lymphoma is a cancer originating in the lymphatic system, and effects the lymph nodes and other sites in the body. Whereas myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, primarily found in bone marrow.

Each form of the disease is unique, which is why new developments in precision medicine treatments are targeting cancers at the molecular level. This ensures that patients receive the right treatment at the right time.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is our partner this month.  The mission of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is to cure blood cancers and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

Compared to any other blood cancer nonprofit, LLS is the largest funder of cutting-edge research and cures. They’ve seen an average decline of 20 percent in blood cancer death rates since the 1990s.  Since the 1950s, survival rates for many blood cancer patients have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled.

However, despite these great successes, more than one-third of blood cancer patients still do not survive five years after their diagnosis.

The death rate from certain blood cancers, such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML), remains stubbornly high, with treatment protocols that have not changed in decades. But with LLS’s research partnerships and collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, patients support services and advocates working for blood cancer patients everywhere, someday is today.

The especially exciting news here in the Rocky Mountain Chapter is the enrolling of the first patient in the Beat AML Master Trial at the University of Colorado Medical Center being conducted in collaboration with multiple medical institutions, drug companies and the FDA.

Dr. Dan Pollyea, a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter Board of Trustees, is the primary investigator in this groundbreaking trial. This cutting-edge trial is testing multiple drugs in multiple sites across the country to find the most effective treatments based on individual patients’ specific genetic profiles.

It is the first precision medicine trial in a blood cancer using advanced genomic technology to identify patients’ genetic mutations and test several investigational, targeted drugs to treat those patients.  Qualified candidates for the trial are newly diagnosed over the age of 60.     

LLS is making extraordinary progress in fighting blood cancers and helping patients to access lifesaving treatments and cures.

The Rocky Mountain Chapter serving Colorado and Wyoming was established in 1963, and conducts four signature campaigns: Light The Night, Man & Woman of the Year, Student Series, and Team In Training.

To speak to an Information Specialist about blood cancer, call 1-800-955-4572, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mountain Time.  For more information or to make a donation, go to www.lls.org.

LLS contributed the contents of this article.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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