BENGALURU: Blood cancers could be leukaemia (of white blood cells), lymphoma (of Lymph nodes) or myelomas (of bone marrow) besides some other rare types. These are overall less common than breast, lung and prostate cancers, however, form a big subset of ‘curable cancers’.Generally, patients present with bleeding or infections and are mistaken for other causes and accidentally diagnosed with one of the above acute haematological/blood cancers. Acute leukaemia is more common in children.
Chronic leukaemia, on the other hand, are often diagnosed during routine health checkups with high blood counts and enlarged spleen. Often, myelomas present with renal dysfunction, low haemoglobin or bone fractures, and are missed during the early stages. While all these are extremely treatable, the key is to diagnose the problem on time.
Lymphomas present as lymph node swelling and form almost 60 per cent of all blood cancers and treated with some combinations of chemotherapies and biologics. Bone marrow transplantation (or stem cell transplantation) has an important role in haematological cancers. Autologous (own stem cells) and allogenic (donor stem cells) transplants are used.
There is 180-degree change in the way we diagnose and treat these set of disorders. High-end molecular diagnostics is basis of typing them enabling precision diagnosis and treatment. Monoclonal antibodies, inhibitors and small molecules (biologic therapies) make the treatment much more effective with lesser side effects.
Newer therapies like CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor-T) cell therapies are used for relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, large B cell lymphoma and myeloma. However cost of such therapies at this juncture is prohibitive. But with higher applications and wider utilisation, these genetic modification therapies will be more and more accessible. The author is medical oncologist and hemato-oncologist,
Vikram Hospital, Bangalore