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article imageGene therapy a big win against leukemia and blood disorders

By Eileen Kersey     Dec 10, 2013 in Health
Seattle - Leukemia has been a recognized illness since the 1800's but successful treatments are much more recent. The latest treatment being hailed as a success, in the treatment of leukemia and other blood disorders, is gene therapy.
According to the Vancouversun doctors are reporting unprecedented success in the treatment of blood disorders by "using gene therapy to transform patients' blood cells into soldiers that seek and destroy cancer".
Researchers began by using one group of patients, with a certain type of leukemia quite few years ago. The treatment was in the experimental stage and it involved a one-time therapy. Years later the patients remain cancer-free.
The success of the therapy led to six research groups treating more than 120 patients, with many types of blood and bone marrow cancers, using the same therapy. Apparently the results were stunning.
Dr. Janis Abkowitz, blood diseases chief at the University of Washington in Seattle, and president of the American Society of Hematology, described the treatment and results as exciting. Researchers have been able to change a cell to make it an attack cell.
The American Society of Hematology explains,
Leukemia is a type of cancer found in your blood and bone marrow and is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells. These abnormal white blood cells are not able to fight infection and impair the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.
Leukemia can be either acute or chronic. Chronic leukemia progresses more slowly than acute leukemia, which requires immediate treatment. Leukemia is also classified as lymphocytic or myelogenous. Lymphocytic leukemia refers to abnormal cell growth in the marrow cells that become lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a role in the immune system. In myelogenous leukemia, abnormal cell growth occurs in the marrow cells that mature into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. There are four broad classifications of leukemia:
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
The hematology group begins its conference on Saturday in New Orleans and will report the results. Among the gravely ill patients successfully treat by gene therapy is 8-year-old Emily Whitehead of Philipsburg, Pa., whose "cancer was so advanced that doctors said her major organs would fail within days. She was the first child given the gene therapy and shows no sign of cancer today, nearly two years later."
Leukemia, or as it is called in the UK Leukaemia, is still a killer for some patients. It comes in many forms and can be acute or chronic. Patients with chronic leukemia can live for years following successful treatment but those with acute leukemia may not be so lucky.
On a personal level this writer has a sister-in-law who was diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia more than 15 years ago and a former boss who died within months of an acute diagnosis, aged 54. Both received various treatments, with one receiving a bone marrow transplant.
Childhood leukemia is often successfully treat these days but there is always work to be done plus more bone marrow donors needed.
More about Leukemia, Leukaemia, Success, Gene therapy, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
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