The Hemoglobin Mail

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dwindling Family Size Causing Transplant Donor Shortage

Blood cancers like leukemia can be treated and possibly cured through bone marrow or stem cell transplants, but because of smaller family size, the number of sibling donors are declining, and so are the chances of patient survival. If you have leukemia for example, there is a 25% chance that a sibling will be a good enough genetic match to pursue the transplant treatment. The larger the family, the better the odds. However, family size is dwindling, and the chances of a patient getting a family match will be half of what it was only some years ago.

Transplants can save lives, though different hospitals/doctors put the success rate at anywhere between 40-75% or more. The transplant process itself is very risky for the patient, can be an 15% chance of not making it, due to infections on a wiped out immune system. Some transplants are very successful, and return many people back to their normal lives, and others have side effects (graft versus host disease), sometimes life altering follow up problems, while others just do not make it at all.

But the chances of surviving with a transplant is much greater than just from chemo and radiation alone. And, ideally the donor would be a family member, male donors for male recipients preferably too. But with smaller families comes more risks. The other hope is to receive a transplant from an outside donor, and that can save lives too. Sometimes the risks are higher for graft versus host disease complications, but other times, it works well.

So if you are ever inclined to feel like saving a life by being a possible bone marrow or stem cell donor, check out OneMatch to sign up as a donor.
p.s. Many thanks to blood donors for saving thousands of lives each year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Genetically Modified "Serial Killer" T Cells Obliterate Tumors in Patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia,

Only a few months ago, an eye-opening breakthrough study at the University of Pennsylvania, excited the leukemia world. Here's why! With only three subjects for the study, the findings were that striking, that it has created a new hope for the treatment of CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) and other cancers. The patients were in advanced stages of CLL, with few other treatment options. Researchers took patients' T-cells, then genetically modified them to attack cancer cells, and injected them back into the patients, after chemotherapy.
"Within three weeks, the tumors had been blown away, in a way that was much more violent than we ever expected," said senior author Carl June, MD, director of Translational Research and a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the Abramson Cancer Center, who led the work. "It worked much better than we thought it would."
Patient's tumors disappeared and they went into remission, up to a year so far.
"We saw at least a 1000-fold increase in the number of modified T cells in each of the patients. Drugs don't do that," June says. "In addition to an extensive capacity for self-replication, the infused T cells are serial killers. On average, each infused T cell led to the killing of thousands of tumor cells – and overall, destroyed at least two pounds of tumor in each patient."
The research team have plans to try the same gene manipulaton on other lymphomas, and leukemias. Read the full article here

Time and more trials, and patients, will tell a fuller story, but at this point, it sounds promising for CLL patients right now, and possibly for many others in the coming years.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Welcome to the Hemoglobin Mail!

This title began in 2002 while I was undergoing a stem cell transplant, as a treatment for the blood cancer, leukemia. It was a section of a web site where I would update family and friends on my progress and condition.

The site was a distraction of sorts and of course a way to share some information on the disease, bone marrow transplants and graft versus host disease. For a while in 2003 I kept it updated, but while life got busy in somewhat normal ways, this distraction began to lie dormant. Lately, it's been a little distracting that I have not posted much on the disease, cancer and any new and promising research. So it's about bloody time, pardon my hemoglobic pun.

Part of the motivation for turning a past hobby into a blog, is to just share any relative research news I read and hear about. Just in the last several months there have been several new promising research findings that are giving cause for a new hope for treatments. As well, here in St. John's, there will be a launch of a Thrombosis, Blood and Immune Disorder research project on Nov. 9. This blogger will talk briefly at the event, and thought that perhaps any information I write here could possibly be in some small way, encouraging to others faced with blood cancers and the side effects of treatments.

Realistically, I do not expect to write here daily, but will post whenever I learn something interesting, useful and/or positive, and will reply to any comments readers may have. For now, I say welcome, and will write more interesting posts in the days, weeks and hopefully months to come.