Getting to the Root of Leukemia
From Colorado Cancer BlogsColorado Cancer Blogs Jan 3, 2019
From Colorado Cancer Blogs
"The day before Joel Rutstein planned to leave for a week-long trip to Hawaii with his wife, Barbara, and their grown children, an oncologist in Fort Collins gave Joel bad news.
In the course of his annual checkup, Joel’s primary care physician had noticed a trend of declining hemoglobin in his blood. It was probably nothing. But after other tests couldn’t explain the problem, Joel’s doctor referred him to an oncologist for a bone marrow biopsy. It was the result of this biopsy that Joel learned that day before Hawaii
“I said, Barbara, I think I just got a death sentence,” Joel says. “The oncologist said it was very bad and that I probably wasn’t going to live.”
Since the early 1970s, chemotherapy and sometimes bone marrow transplant have been the standard-of-care for AML. The results have never been anywhere near perfect. And because the side effects of treatment itself are life-threatening, for older patients, even this imperfect treatment has been impossible. Now the basic science from Jordan’s lab and the results from clinical trials in Pollyea’s and Smith’s patients are leading to a new paradigm for the treatment of AML – one that offers real hope for all patients.
“When I was a fellow, I learned how to tell AML patients they were going to die,” Pollyea says. “Now I’m talking with my patients about their vacations and how their grandchildren are doing. It’s a fundamental change to the treatment of AML.”