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“Greater knowledge of tumor biology not only allows us to understand why the disease comes about, but also to open up possible avenues of treatment”, ensures Dr. Adolfo de la Fuente, associate physician with the Hematology Service at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid and co-director of the congress in collaboration with Dr. Miguel Angel Sanz, of the La Fe University Hospital in Valencia. The doctor states that “the advances made in identifying genetic, epigenetic and molecular changes in leukemia cells make new treatment options possible, improving the prognosis for patients”.

The role of new treatments already available and of drugs currently being developed are the main novelties dealt with at this new symposium on acute leukemia, whose annual periodicity has made the event greatly relevant in the field.

Professionals in the sector such as Dr. Raquel de Oña, head of the Hematology Service at MD Anderson Madrid, or Dr. Angel Martinez, of the center’s cytogenetic laboratory, will debate new scientific advances in the field of hematology with other eminent international professionals, such as Professor Franceso LoCoco, of the Tor Vergata University in Rome, or Dr. Herve Dombret, of the Saint Louis Hospital in Paris.

“The approaches and ideas presented by our foreign colleagues help us to focus on the question from a wider point of view, taking into consideration the procedures, advances and techniques achieved in other countries”, states Dr. de la Fuente.

The improvement in support care, above all when dealing with bone marrow transplant, currently results in improved survival rates in leukemia patients.

In the case of adults, “acute leukemia is probably the scenario in which hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is most relevant, and advances in preparation, source of stem cells and support care play a vital role in improving the expectancy of survival in acute leukemia patients”, ensures Dr. Adolfo de la Fuente.

However, in spite of important medical advances achieved in recent years, specialists admit that important challenges remain to be overcome: “We must advance in the treatment of elderly or fragile patients”, points of the doctor.

Other main aspects dealt with during the symposium are rescue treatments for relapsed or refractory patients and the importance of prognosis factors and treatment options, as well as treatment of lymphoblastic leukemia in adults and new treatment strategies and agents.

About acute leukemia

Leukemia is a cancer that develops in the hematopoietic tissue, that responsible for creating blood, such as bone marrow. The classification of the different types of leukemia depends on the variety of blood cell affected and on the velocity at which the cells grow. In particular, leukemia can be acute or chronic.

Acute leukemia consists of rapid, excessive growth of immature blood cells, called blast cells. The disease is deadly without treatment because it can cause hematopoietic failure with complications like anemia, infection and hemorrhage.

A diagnosis of acute leukemia is established when there are 20% or more of blast cells in the bone marrow. Acute lymphoblast leukemia (ALL) is more common in childhood and at the onset of adulthood, although it may be diagnosed in adults. On the other hand, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is more common in adults.