Leukemia is a very complex and invasive type of cancer that starts in the blood cells. In contrast to other types of cancer, such as breast or lung, that is confined to one area and may be susceptible to spreading. Leukemia affects a broader region and can be especially worrisome since blood travels throughout the entire body.
Blood is most often formed in the bone marrow. As opposed to giving blood donations, many healthy people are now choosing to additionally sign up to be bone marrow donors. Those affected with acute lymphoblastic leukemia have cancer that is affecting their white blood cells. Acute leukemia is fast growing and widespread whereas chronic leukemia is slow-growing. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the treatment and prognosis depends on the type of blood cell affected and whether the leukemia is acute or chronic.
Different types of leukemia, according to NCI, include Adult Acute Lymphoblastic, Adult Acute Myeloid, Chronic Lympocytic, Chronic Myelogenous, Hairy Cell, Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic and Childhood Acute Myeloid.
Aside from chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, immune cell therapy treatments have been administered for leukemia patients. Organizations exist such as, Be The Match, which pairs compatible healthy people with those in need of a bone marrow transplant. Be the Match website states that every 3 minutes someone is diagnosed with leukemia. In the case that a patient requires a transplant in order to survive, the odds of finding a compatible donor are very low. If more people registered the likelihood would increase.
Be the Match cites that only persons between the ages of 18 & 44 are eligible to donate their bone marrow. The process of registereing with Be the Match is simply; donors must complete a questionnaire related to their health and family history and leave a cheek swab specimen. Their information is then left in a database and they are called for further testing if they happen to be a match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant.
Thankfully, there is often breaking news on innovative research and treatments. Molecularly Targeted Therapy was recently revealed for treating a rare form of leukemia. A concoction of drugs designed at the molecular level of the cell, they are tailored to recognize the molecules unique to certain types of cancer, and attack only those cells. This is exciting news for patients and doctors fighting the obliterating effects of mass doses of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Oncologists and cancer researchers are extremely hopefully that Molecularly Targeted Therapy could soon be a model for similar drugs to fight and treat many different types of cancer which currently affect thousands of people.
The NCI states that, “leukemia occurs most often in adults older than 55 years, and it is the most common cancer in children younger than 15 years.” The most common type of leukemia that affects adults is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). Encouraging research continues to breakthrough that gives optimism in the treatment of CLL. Trials of immune-boosting drug, ibrutinib reveal that “patients lived longer without their disease getting worse.” While this disease can’t always be cured it seems that groundbreaking research is aiding in staving off symptoms and keeping cancer at bay.
In addition to Be the Match, there are a number of relief and humanitarian organizations that exist to support affected patients and their families. One of the largest organizations is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Their festive and motivating ‘Light the Night’ walk and fundraiser raises money toward research, treatment and support. Last year alone, Light the Night participants raised $18.8 million dollars; a significant and inspirational amount that will undoubtedly aid in the continued research and treatment of leukemia.