Blood cancer research: leading the waySome of the major advances in cancer medicine have come first from blood cancer research.
Partly because blood is so easy to access, our understanding of the biology of blood cancer is unparalleled in cancer research – so many major advances in cancer medicine have come first from blood cancer research.
- In 1942, during the second world war, two scientists studying mustard gas discovered the potential for using chemicals to treat a tumour.
- In the 1960s and 1970s, it was discovered that chemotherapy could cure childhood leukaemia and advanced Hodgkin lymphoma, despite most of the scientific community being sceptical about using drugs – rather than surgery – to treat cancers.
- In 1997 the first monoclonal antibody treatment (using the patient’s immune system to attack cancerous cells) was used in a patient with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- In 2008 a team of scientists became the first to sequence an entire cancer genome from the cells of an acute myeloid leukaemia patient.
These are all examples of huge breakthroughs in cancer treatment. But what else do these events have in common? They were all advances made in blood cancer research.