House Call: Leukemia treatment options

Treatment for leukemia is constantly being researched and has had many exciting advancements over the years which have significantly reduced the mortality rates of the disease.

With chemotherapy most often used as the first line of defense against the disease, specialists and researchers in the field are now pairing chemotherapy treatments with other agents, such as antibodies and vaccines.

Acute leukemia must be treated aggressively, involving inpatient chemotherapy for a four week period. The goal of the intensive acute leukemia treatment is to destroy all of the cancerous cells by wiping the bone marrow clean in hopes that healthy stem cells will repopulate the area.

Although this treatment puts 40-60 percent of patients into remission, they often relapse. The goal for treatment advancements is to reduce the relapse rate by looking at new ways to turn the “good” genes on and the “bad” genes off, utilize vaccine strategies and pair antibodies with chemotherapy agents, cell poisons and radiation therapy.

The most exciting advancement in the treatment of chronic leukemia, is a method of specifically treating chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). In the past, there was a high transformation of CML to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in patients.

Now that rate has been significantly decreased due to a new pill form of leukemia treatment called Imatinib which inhibits the growth of the protein that causes the leukemic development.

This has dramatically changed the prognosis for those diagnosed with CML.

The comprehensive Cone Health Cancer Center is capable and dedicated to providing exceptional treatment for both acute and chronic forms of leukemia, so patients in our community can receive care close to home and the support of family and friends.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. James Granfortuna is an oncology and hematology specialist at Cone Health Cancer Center.  Dr. Granfortuna is a 1980 graduate of Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine and his fellowship in Oncology and Hematology at State University of New York, Health Sciences Center.

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