Health Team

Benefits of leukemia treatment may outweigh risks

Posted June 9, 2009
Updated June 16, 2009

Using a strong treatment to cure leukemia patients has been limited because of serious, potentially fatal side effects. But researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have found the benefits of allogeneic stem cell transplantation may outweigh the risks.

The initial treatment for acute myleloid leukemia (AML) is chemotherapy. It helps nearly 70 percent of patients under 60 years old go into remission.

"In other words, the bone marrow and the blood have been restored to a normal looking state," said Dr. John Koreth, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. "They aren't cured, there is still cancer lurking."

The best way to prevent a relapse is unclear, so researchers studied allogeneic stem cell transplantation.

Benefits of leukemia treatment may outweigh risks Leukemia treatment may be worth the risks

Researchers reviewed data from two dozen studies on allogeneic stem cell transplantation, in which blood-forming donor cells replace abnormal cells in a patient's bone marrow. The procedure has a high risk of serious side effects.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows the transplants clearly boost the survival rate of patients with poor and intermediate risk AML. Patients that participated in the study were in full remission.

“You should strongly consider an allogeneic transplant rather than the alternative treatments based on the cumulative experience of several thousands of patients,” Koreth said.

Randall Burnham has been relapse free for two years since undergoing the procedure.

Researchers say that the development of a more sophisticated means of analyzing genetic risk will help to further pinpoint ideal candidates for this type of stem cell transplant.


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