The term leukemia covers various types of cancer in the tissue that regenerates the blood. Among adults, the most common type of leukemia is acute myeloid leukemia (AML), with an annual incidence of about three cases per 100,000 inhabitants. With the aim of looking carefully at the main aspects of the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid is organizing the congress “Updating in the Treatment of Acute Leukemia” which, after various editions, has become an important date for scientific debate aimed at professionals specialized in the approach to acute leukemia and bone marrow transplant.
According to specialists, advances achieved in recent years in the understanding of the tumor biology of the pathology and improvements in support care, particularly in the area of bone marrow transplant, have made it possible to offer better survival rates to patients after the diagnosis of leukemia.
However, the scientific community admits that there are still major challenges to be faced in the approach to acute leukemia: “treating patients with induction polychemotherapy refractory leukemia or who suffer a relapse after achieving complete remission is still one of our greatest challenges. Furthermore, we must advance more in dealing with older, or fragile patients”, says Dr. Adolfo de la Fuente, attending physician at the MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid Hematology Service and co-director of the congress in collaboration with Dr. Miguel Angel Sanz, of the La Fe University Hospital in Valencia. “That makes us go on working to find new and better treatment options for these patients that allow us to increase their chances of being cured and of surviving”, further states Dr. de la Fuente.
To look at these very current topics, the congress will enjoy the participation of experts in the treatment of acute leukemia and bone marrow transplant, such as Dr. Raquel de Oña, head of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid Hematology Service; Dr. Steven Kornblau, specialist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston, and numerous physicians from other renowned centers. “The quality and high scientific level of the presentations will undoubtedly contribute to our understanding and treatment of patients diagnosed with acute leukemia”, states Dr. de la Fuente.
The main objectives of this edition include the proposal of a specific definition of the standard treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, paying particular attention to the advancement of genic sequentiation and the possibility of offering, in the future, a personalized choice of the best therapy for each patient diagnosed. “Of course, we will revise the great challenge of how to treat elderly patients, looking closely at hypomethylating agents, which currently also open the door to new options and perspectives for patients”, says the MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid specialist.
In addition, during the congress, attendees will analyze advances in the area of hematopoietic transplants, the profile of the ideal patient to receive a transplant in first complete remission and strategies to optimize transplants in patients with relapsed or induction polychemotherapy refractory acute myeloid leukemia. Finally, the salvage therapy for relapsed or refractory patients, the importance of prognostic factors and possible therapy options, in addition to the treatment of lymphoblastic leukemia in adults, new strategies and new therapeutic agents will also be dealt with.
About acute leukemia
Leukemia is a cancer that develops in the hematopoietic tissue – the tissue that forms blood, like bone morrow. The classification of the different types of leukemia depends on the variety of blood cell affected and the rate of cell growth. To be precise, leukemia can be acute or chronic.
Acute leukemia consists of rapid, excessive growth of immature blood cells, known as blasts. The disease is fatal if untreated as it causes the failure of normal hematopoiesis leading to complications like anemia, infection and bleeding.
On the other hand, chronic leukemia consists of excessive growth of mature blood cells. Usually, the progression of chronic leukemia is slow and a balance may be achieved permitting longer life expectancy with good quality of life.
The diagnosis of acute leukemia is established when the number of blasts in bone marrow is greater than 20%. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is more frequent in childhood and young adulthood, although it is also diagnosed in adults. On the other hand, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is more common in adults.