Treatment for blood cancer depends on the type of cancer, your age, how fast the cancer is progressing, and where cancer has spread. Blood cancer occurs when something goes wrong with the development of blood cells. Due to this blood cells lost their functionality, continue to grow and divide out of control. Normal blood cells lost their function and become a cancerous cell. This can stop blood’s normal function such as keep healthy, fighting off infections or helping repair your body.
Blood Cancer treatment can be complex and long duration. As different cancer treatments come with different possible benefits, risks and side effects. While some slow-growing blood cancers can be managed by medication, but people with faster-growing blood cancers may need stronger or intensive treatments.
The treatment option your doctors recommend will depend on the type of blood cancer you have. You might have one type of treatment or a number of them depending upon type and your health. Some people may never go for treatment or will choose not to have treatment.
Intensive treatments can be hard on your body and aren’t suitable or needed for everyone. Some people may get more benefit from less intensive treatment that supports them to have the best possible quality of life, even if it doesn’t cure their blood cancer.
Types of Blood Cancer
The type of blood cancer you have generally depended on the type of blood cell that’s affected.
Leukemia: It happens when leukocytes (white blood cells) become a cancerous cell.
Lymphoma: It happens when lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) become a cancerous cell.
Myeloma: It happens when plasma cells (a type of B lymphocyte) become cancerous.
Types of Blood Cancer & Treatment
In this section of the article, we are going to explain the treatment of blood cancer type.
Various types of anticancer drugs kill cancer cells in different ways. The type of medication your doctor chooses to treat you can depend on your age, the type and stage of the disease.
Some blood cancers are treated effectively with a single drug. However, many conventional and investigational drug therapies combine drugs that attack cancer cells at different points in their growth cycles. This approach often makes therapy more effective and reduces the chance that the cancer cells will become resistant to a particular drug. As a result, more patients are achieving long-term remissions or cures.
Sometimes cancer cells may be resistant to the initial drugs used or can become resistant to the drugs after a period. In this case, your doctor may prescribe different drugs to target and kill the cancerous cells
Types of drug used to treat blood cancer
Antimetabolites mimic the building blocks of DNA or RNA that cancer cells need to survive and grow. When the cancer cell uses an antimetabolite instead of the natural substances, it can’t produce normal DNA or RNA and the cell dies.
Antimitotics damage cancer cells by blocking a process called mitosis (cell division), which prevents cancer cells from dividing and multiplying.
Antitumor antibiotics prevent cell division by either binding to DNA to prevent the cells from duplicating or inhibiting RNA synthesis.
Bisphosphonates are used to treat high levels of calcium in the blood caused by certain cancers, including myeloma. It won’t slow or stop the spread of cancer, but they can slow bone breakdown, increase bone thickness and reduce bone pain and fracture risk.
DNA-Repair Enzyme Inhibitors
DNA-repair enzyme inhibitors attack the cancer cell proteins (enzymes) that normally repair damage to DNA. DNA repair is a normal process within the cell. Without this repair process, the cancer cell is much more susceptible to damage and cannot grow.
Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
Histone deacetylase inhibitors attack cancer cells by targeting the proteins that support DNA in the cell nucleus.
Certain hormones (corticosteroids) can kill lymphocytes. They are believed that it works by blocking cell metabolism through their effect on specific genes. In high doses, these synthetic hormones relatives of the natural hormone cortisol can kill malignant lymphocytes.
Hypomethylating (Demethylating) Agents
Hypomethylating or demethylating agents interfere with cancer cell duplication by slowing or reversing hypermethylation. Methylation is a critical part of cell growth and replication. This replication process sometimes speeds up in cancer cells.
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced proteins that target specific antigens on the cancer cell’s surface to interfere with the cell’s function and destroy it. Some monoclonal antibodies are combined with a toxin or radioactive substance.
Proteasome inhibitors are designed to limit the effects of a cell structure called a proteasome. When a proteasome doesn’t function properly, the cell dies. Cancer cells may be more susceptible to the effects of proteasome inhibition than normal cells.
Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors block the action of a specific, abnormal protein that gives cancer cells the signal to grow.
Chemotherapy is the use of potent drugs or chemicals to kill or damage cancer cells in the body. The chemotherapy drugs are often called anticancer agents. These drugs may be toxic enough to kill leukemic cells, which is why chemotherapy can be hard on your body too; the drugs’ toxicity can harm your healthy cells as well. However, successful chemotherapy depends on the fact that cancerous cells are more sensitive to the chemicals in the drug than normal cells are.
The progress in treatment and survival for patients with blood cancers is largely due to the development of chemotherapy drugs over the past 40 years. Today’s treatments for leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma sometimes combine chemotherapy with radiation therapy. Very high dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplantation can also be used.
The goal of chemotherapy is to damage or kill cancer cells so there’s either no sign of illness (remission) or the disease’s progress is slowed. Chemotherapy can produce long-term remission or outright cure for many persons, depending on the cancer type and its extent.
Radiation therapy also called radiotherapy(ionizing radiation) or irradiation, can be used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. The type of radiation used for radiotherapy is the same that’s used for diagnostic x-rays. Radiotherapy, however, is given in higher doses.
Radiotherapy works by damaging the genetic material (DNA) within cells, which prevents them from growing and reproducing. Although radiotherapy is directed at cancer cells, it can also damage nearby healthy cells. However, current methods of radiotherapy have been improved. Therefore its benefit to destroying the cancer cells overcome its risk (harming healthy cells).
When radiotherapy is used for blood cancer treatment, it’s usually part of a treatment plan that includes drug therapy. Radiotherapy can also be used to relieve pain or discomfort caused by an enlarged liver, lymph node(s) or spleen.
Radiotherapy with chemotherapy is sometimes given as conditioning treatment to prepare a patient for a blood marrow stem cell transplant. The most common types used to treat blood cancer are external beam radiation and radioimmunotherapy.
Immunotherapy, also known as biological therapy, utilizes your own immune system to fight cancer. It generally results in very fewer short-term side effects than chemotherapy does.
The types of immunotherapies used for blood cancer treatment are:
CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T- Cell Therapy
This is a type of immunotherapy in which the patient cells are removed through apheresis(it is a technique by which a particular substance or component is removed from the blood. It is modified in a laboratory so they can be reprogrammed to target tumor cells through a gene modification technique. The cells are then returned to the patient with the chemotherapy.
Other treatments used to stimulate the immune system in a general way and used in combination with monoclonal antibodies, vaccines or chemotherapy are substances called cytokines hormones produced by the body that help the immune system function. Manmade cytokines are used as an adjunct or additional therapy to boost the immune system. Examples of these treatments are:
- Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF)
- Interleukin-2 (IL-2)
Donor lymphocyte infusion
Some blood cancer patients, especially those with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), who have a relapse after stem cell transplantation or for whom transplantation isn’t successful, may benefit from an immune cell treatment called donor lymphocyte infusion.
Monoclonal Antibody Treatment
Monoclonal antibody therapy is sometimes referred to as passive immunotherapy because it doesn’t directly stimulate your immune system to respond to a disease. Instead, monoclonal antibody therapy mimics the natural antibodies made by the body.
A monoclonal antibody is an immune protein made in a laboratory. It’s designed to react with or attach to antigens foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and allergens on the surface of cancer cells. The monoclonal antibody aims for the molecule and attaches itself to the cell, blocking or interfering with the cell’s activity.
Monoclonal antibody therapies can cause side effects, but their side-effects are milder than chemotherapy. Because they’re designed to target and attack specific substances, they do not harm any normal cells. Targeted treatment may also increase the frequency of and prolong remissions.
Radioimmunotherapy is mainly used to treat lymphoma or myeloma. It combines a radioactive substance with a monoclonal antibody that’s injected or infused into your body. The monoclonal antibody targets, and sometimes reacts with, proteins on cancer cells called antigens. The radioactive molecule destroys the cancerous cells.
Monoclonal antibodies are immune proteins made in the laboratory. The most common monoclonal antibody used for blood cancer is ibritumomab (Zevalin®).
Radioimmunotherapy has a less toxic effect on normal cells than chemotherapy does. The treatment doesn’t cause hair loss, often doesn’t cause nausea and causes only mild degrees of fatigue and lowered blood counts. The recovery period is generally small.
Vaccines designed to treat cancer it do not prevent the disease in the same way that conventional vaccines prevent diseases such as measles or polio. Therapeutic cancer vaccines are treating already present cancer and reduce their potential to grow.
Researchers are working on vaccines that could prevent cancer from recurring. Currently, there are no licensed blood cancer vaccines. Vaccines for leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma are still in development and available only in clinical trials.
Types of Vaccine Therapy
There are different types of vaccines and it is distinguished on the basis of how they made.
- Vaccines contain antigens or parts of antigens from the patient’s cancer cells or another patient’s cancer cells.
- Some vaccines contain the DNA (material in the cell nucleus with the genetic code) for specific antigens.
- Many vaccines are created by isolating cells in the laboratory and inserting the cancer antigen into them so they start making antibodies.
Stem Cell Transplantation
Stem cell transplantation (SCT), is a procedure in which a patient receives healthy stem cells to replace damaged stem cells. Sometimes it also refers to bone marrow transplantation.
Sometimes the patient receives high dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy before the stem cell transplantation. Infusion of the stem cells into the patient’s bloodstream, that they travel to the bone marrow and begin the process of forming new, healthy blood cells.
Types of Stem Cell Transplantation
Autologous: It uses a patient’s own stem cells, these cells are removed, treated and returned to the patient’s body.
Allogenic: It uses stem cells from the donor. The donor may be a family member or not related to a patient. Only a healthy person can be a donor.
Palliative care and the medical specialty of Palliative Medicine refers to specialized medical care focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve the quality of life for the patient. Palliative care is provided by a team of specialists, including palliative care doctors, nurses and social workers. It is appropriate at any age and any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment too.
A cancer clinical trial is a research study that a doctor conducts to improve the care of the patient. A treatment that’s proven safe and effective in a cancer clinical trial may be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a standard treatment if it meets one or both of the following criteria:
- It’s more effective than the current standard treatment.
- It has fewer side effects than the current standard treatment
The purpose of blood cancer clinical trials is to:
- Improve treatment options
- Increase survival
- Improve the quality of life
Advances in treatment for blood cancers depend on clinical trials of new therapies. Designing different types of cancer clinical trials to develop and test new and better ways to:
- Diagnose and treat cancer in people
- Prevent or relieve the side effects of treatment
- Help prevent the cancer relapse
- Improve comfort and quality of life for people with cancer
Side effects of Blood cancer Treatment
Cancer treatment can cause side effects, it occurs when the treatment affects healthy cells or tissues. Consult your doctor or health professional if you notice any kind of side effects after taking the treatment.
The type of side effects and their severity vary from person to person, depending on the type of treatment that is used and how a person responds. Mainly the side effects which are seen due to the blood cancer treatment are:
- Chemotherapy kills cells that multiply quickly, such as cancer cells as well as normal fast-growing cells.
- Radiation therapy always plans carefully so that it does not harm any healthy tissue as possible. However, it by the treatment and this will cause side effects.
- Many of the side effects of corticosteroids are temporary and should pass once you stop taking them. Long-term use of corticosteroids may cause some other side effects such as fluid retention, joint pain and also susceptible to any infections.
- Treatment for a blood condition will affect the bone marrow’s ability to produce normal blood cells. As a result blood count will generally fall within a week of treatment, increasing the risk of infection and bleeding.
Few side effects which you may notice without going labs. These below symptoms you can face after the blood cancer treatment.
Fatigue: Most people face some degree of tiredness in the days and weeks following treatment. Having plenty of rest and a little exercise each day may help to make you feel better during this time.
Hair Loss: Hair loss is, unfortunately, a very common side effect of chemotherapy and some forms of radiation therapy(radiotherapy). However, it is temporary and it. The hair that falls within a couple of weeks of treatment and tends to grow back three to six months after treatment.
Skin Reaction: Chemotherapy can make your skin dry and sensitive while radiation therapy can cause redness of the skin which may also flake and blisters. Using moisturizers regularly can help.
The Government approved the medicine for the treatment of blood cancer are given below:
According to FDA(Food and Drug Administration), these provided medicines are very helpful to cure blood cancer, but not any government or organization instruct you to take medicines without taking the doctor,s suggestion.
- Arranon (Nelarabine)
- Asparaginase Erwinia chrysanthemi
- Asparlas (Calaspargase Pegol-mknl)
- Besponsa (Inotuzumab Ozogamicin)
- Blincyto (Blinatumomab)
- Calaspargase Pegol-mknl
- Cerubidine (Daunorubicin Hydrochloride)
- Clolar (Clofarabine)
- Cytosar-U (Cytarabine)
- Daunorubicin Hydrochloride
- Doxorubicin Hydrochloride
- Marqibo (Vincristine Sulfate Liposome)
- Oncaspar (Pegaspargase)
- Ponatinib Hydrochloride
- Purinethol (Mercaptopurine)
- Purixan (Mercaptopurine)
- Rubidomycin (Daunorubicin Hydrochloride)
- Sprycel (Dasatinib)
- Tarabine PFS (Cytarabine)
- Trexall (Methotrexate)
- Vincristine Sulfate
- Vincristine Sulfate Liposome
Now, you have basic information about the treatment of blood cancer along with FDA suggested medicines. Yes, blood cancer can definitely cure by the doctor if you diagnosed at an early stage. You can protect yourself by taking regular health check-up.
Few more question comes in mind about survival, don’t worry 6 in 10 people diagnosed with blood cancer in the UK survive for 10 or more years. So, try to be in 6 survival with taking proper medicines and check up.