Henry Winter
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How large-scale studies are helping to improve survival rates

Henry Winter
Posted by
26 Mar 2012

A fascinating report by Swedish doctors, published this month in the medical journal Blood, has revealed that patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) have a higher chance of long-term survival if they are treated with a stem cell transplant. 

The researchers monitored survival rates in over 3,000 AML patients diagnosed across Sweden over a 10-year period. In one geographical healthcare region, 46% of AML patients between 40-59 years old received a stem cell transplant, compared to an average of 22% of patients in this age group in other parts of the country. Significantly, six-year survival rates in this region for this group was 55%, compared to 34% in the rest of Sweden.

Stem cell transplants have traditionally been seen as a last resort due to the high risks involved with intensive treatment and are generally considered unsuitable for treating elderly patients. However this research has shown that even for older age groups, stem cell transplants on average increase survival in AML patients. Interestingly there was no similar correlation between transplant rate and survival for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) patients.

This study is a great example of how investment in large-scale population studies can reveal incredibly useful and often life-saving information to guide treatment protocols. Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research is investing in the Haematological Malignancy Research Network (HMRN), which works in partnership with 14 hospitals across Yorkshire and Humberside to gather information about each patient’s diagnosis, treatment course and outcome. The network has already collected data from over 12,000 blood cancer patients.

This data is providing new insights into what causes blood cancers and which treatments are the most effective. The University of York team have already shown a link between poverty and relapse rates in childhood leukaemia, highlighting an area where health monitoring can be improved.

While clinical trials are able to demonstrate in the short-term whether new drugs are more effective among a specific group of patients, large-scale population-based patient studies are also vital for revealing key information about causes of blood cancer and the effectiveness of treatments. Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research are committed to investing in both clinical trials and the HMRN to ensure that the best drugs and treatment regimes are available for patients in the future.

The article ‘Acute myeloid leukaemia in the real world: why population-based registries are needed’ was published online in the journal Blood

Henry - Science Communications Team