Dear Dr. SerVaas,
I love the medical articles in The Saturday Evening Post.
I am writing concerning my blood disease, myelodysplastic syndrome. Are any treatments on the horizon for this condition?
We sent your letter to hematology expert Bart Kamen, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (lls.org). Dr. Kamen replies:
“Myelodysplasia (MDS) is caused by the abnormal development of stem cells in the bone marrow that form different types of blood cells.
“Treatments for MDS include using growth factors that prompt blood cells to mature normally and ease symptoms of the failing marrow. Transfusions and antibiotics may be prescribed as needed. Some patients may also be candidates for a bone marrow transplant.
“A greater understanding of the genetic changes seen in the dysplastic cells has led to new drugs that alter DNA expression in these abnormal cells. For some patients this results in a normalization of the blood counts. In general, treatment options depend on the genetic changes that are found, the number of immature cells in the marrow, and the age and symptoms of the patient.
“Myelodysplasia may develop into a more uncontrolled growth called neoplasia, meaning it has become cancerous. As a result, MDS is sometimes referred to as a pre-leukemic state. We recommend that people with MDS talk to the hematologist and learn about new trials that may be available to control the condition and/or prevent it from becoming a leukemia.”