Madrid, November 21, 2022-. Currently, research into acute leukemia is moving towards "tailor-made" treatments adapting to the needs of each individual patient. This is possible thanks to the progress made in the field of targeted therapies, drugs that act on a specific alteration, or target, that conditions the development of tumors and that have been shown to be highly effective against acute leukemia. In the last year, numerous studies have been presented and there are more than 70 ongoing projects evaluating its effectiveness and potential to improve the prognosis of patients with this hematological pathology. This research and its real application to clinical practice were one of the main topics at the 11th Update Conference on the Treatment of Acute Leukemia organized by MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, in collaboration with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
As explained by Dr. Adolfo de la Fuente, head of the hospital's Hematology and Hemotherapy Service, “thanks to research in targeted therapies, we have more options in the identification of the most effective and least toxic treatment for each patient. In addition, these drugs mean the leukemic cells are more exposed and more sensitive to the cytotoxic effect of the drugs. So, we are moving further away from traditional chemotherapy, which, unfortunately, harms the body in a more indiscriminate way”. Within the range of targeted therapies, the role of the hematologist is to select the option that will work best for each leukemia based on the tumor biology of the disease and adapted to each patient based on age, family history and clinical history so the result is as satisfactory as possible.
The specialist also points out that in recent years there has been substantial investment in research into acute leukemia due to the shortcomings persisting in the treatment of these patients, who amount to more than 6,000 every year1. Studies launched seek to understand why leukemia appears in a person and what the mechanisms are involved in the development of the disease and in the response to certain treatments. "The need to better understand the problem explains to a large extent why leukemia research is very active at an international level and in Spain".
At MD Anderson Madrid, leukemia is also one of the main areas of research. The physician goes on to explain, “as a clinical practice center, we focus, above all, on new treatment options and drugs for which there are already promising preclinical data”.
The main stumbling block for the development and implementation of these new drugs is that there is a very fine balance between increased effectiveness and potential side effects. To avoid this, it is essential to carry out adequate segmentation of patients based on an assessment of how they will react to treatment, taking into account all the possible interactions with other medications and promoting multidisciplinary management of each case, involving specialists from different fields.
New treatments require continued education of hematologists
The organization of the 11th Conference on Acute Leukemia responds to the need for hematologists and other health professionals involved in the management of this disease to be aware of updates in diagnostic methodology and prognostic classification, as well as therapeutic guidelines and clinical protocols .
More than 600 specialists from all over Spain and other countries in both Europe and America participated in this edition of the congress.
“In the field of leukemia, given current investment in research, we may have to handle an overwhelming volume of information in just 12 months, so the organization of scientific and informative events helps us to keep up to date and share knowledge. And these are communication forums where information flows in all directions, where we all learn from each other and then transfer this learning to the patients”, explains Dr. Adolfo de la Fuente.
In 2022, for example, there has been an important update at the international level in the categorization of the different types of leukemia. This helps specialists make more accurate diagnoses and more easily identify how leukemias differ from others, which the specialist considers a fundamental step to understanding why the disease starts and how it is expected to progress.
1 Las cifras del Cáncer en España 2022. Sociedad Española de Oncología Médica (SEOM). Acceso en: