September is blood cancer awareness month, and it is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. That includes leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and Hodgkin’s disease. But a new treatment is helping them live longer.
While more than a third of blood cancer patients still do not survive five years after diagnosis, the groundbreaking CAR-T therapy is helping a lot. It falls under the immunotherapy umbrella and utilizes the body’s own white blood cells.
Doctors say collectively, different types of blood cancer account for approximately 10% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. With about 170,000 cases diagnosed annually.
Dr. Muhamad Alhaj Moustafa with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center explains, that while the exact cause of blood cancer is not fully understood, certain risk factors are there.
“There are certain exposures that are linked to cancer in general. Such as toxic chemicals, radiation exposure, increasing age, smoking, and certain genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome, for example,” Moustafa said.
Once that diagnosis comes, CAR-T cell therapy is an option. It stands for Chimeric, Antigen, Receptor, and T-cell therapy.
Dr. Moustafa explains that with this therapy, doctors take the patient’s t-cells, which are responsible for their immune response, and essentially re-engineers them to target that patient’s specific cancer.
“Then we re-infuse these modified T-cells back into the patient, but is to seek out and destroy the cancer cells,” said Moustafa.
The results of CAR-T therapy are encouraging. But Dr. Moustafa says no matter what, staying on top of your health from the get-go is still your first line of defense.
“Leading a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposures to known carcinogens, and regular checkups can help with early detection of these cancers. And lead to better outcomes,” Moustafa said.
Mayo Clinic has information on how CAR-T treatment has improved remission rates with different blood cancers. To learn more, click here.