Research has led to huge leaps forward in blood cancer

Nov 15, 2018
Research has led to huge leaps forward in blood cancer

Immunotherapy, genomics, personalized medicine – much has been achieved in blood cancer in recent years.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) used September’s Blood Cancer Awareness Month to shine a spotlight on how far treatments have come.

Dr. Louis DeGennaro, president and CEO said the organization had invested more than $1.2 billion in research since 1949.

“Cancer is not a one-size-fits-all disease. We prioritize research based on unmet medical needs and are ushering in a new era of cancer therapy that centers on giving the right treatment to the right patient at the right time,” he said.

“Further, we are seeing our vision for, and approaches to, treating blood cancers now helping patients with other cancers, which is why we are proud to say that beating cancer is in our blood.”

Progress has been rapid in recent years. In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 18 blood cancer therapies, and a further 10 have already been given the green light this year.1

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell immunotherapy (CAR-T) has been hailed as “game-changing.”1

The approach, currently approved in acute lymphoblastic leukemia and being tested in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), uses the patient’s own immune cells to find and attack cancer cells. The LLS has been supporting the research behind this discovery for more than two decades.

“After 40 years of little change in standard of care for patients with deadly blood AML, novel targeted therapies have been emerging at a rapid pace over the past year,” said Dr. DeGennaro.

Four new therapies were approved last year, and researchers are now able to home in on specific genetic drivers of the disease which has opened the door to more personalized treatment.1

“Remarkable advances” have also been made in myeloma in the last 10 years, and CAR-T is yielding potentially promising results.

But there’s still work to be done – someone in the USA is told they have a blood cancer around every three minutes, and more than a third do not survive for longer than five years after diagnosis.2

Around 1.3 million people in the USA are living with, or are in remission from, leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other hematological cancers.2

Raising awareness of the symptoms, as well as the need to continue to work in the area, is vital.

Dr. DeGennaro said: “To advance our mission we focus on cures and ensuring that patients have access to life-saving therapies. Our long-term investment in research has resulted in significant breakthroughs leading to higher survival rates and lives saved, but at LLS, we do so much more.”

“We provide free information, education and support services for those who have been impacted by blood cancer. We fight for lifesaving policy changes at the state and federal level to ensure access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.”

The group’s ultimate goal, however, is simple: blood cancer cures.

“We are committed to working tirelessly toward our mission every single day, until we find a cure,” explained Dr. DeGennaro.


  1. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. (2018) Cancer is tough, but LLS is tougher [Press release]. August 28, 2018. Available at: (accessed October 2018).
  2. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. (2018) Facts and statistics [Website]. Available at: (accessed October 2018).
Research has led to huge leaps forward in blood cancer

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