A new study finds that longer courses of a mild form of chemotherapy may help patients with a bone marrow disease only recently considered a form of cancer. Writing in the April 15, 2006 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, researchers say the study found that 45 percent of patients with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) who relapse did respond to a second course of treatment, but that the quality and duration of the second response was inferior to the initial treatment, leading researchers to believe that longer initial treatments may be more beneficial to patient outcome.
MDS is a bone marrow disease that causes an increasing number of dysfunctional blood cells called blasts to develop from stem cells and proliferate in the blood stream at the expense of normal cells. As a result, fewer normal red blood cells will circulate to carry oxygen to cells resulting in anemia; fewer white blood cells will be available to fight infections; and fewer platelets to control bleeding. Although MDS has not been considered cancer in the past, most hematologists (specialists in diseases of the blood) now think it is a form of bone marrow cancer (i.e. leukemia).
MDS generally afflicts adults over 50 years old, and therapy is supportive rather than curative. However, a subset of MDS patients will develop blood cell cancer, or leukemia. These high-risk patients have been shown to benefit from a new DNA hypomethylating agent, decitabine, undergoing clinical trials. The results of these trials are revealed in a related article by Kantarjian et al. also published in the April 15, 2006 issue of CANCER.
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