In the treatment of blood cancers and disorders, doctors and researchers are focusing their sights on the immune system and how to bolster its ability to fight off diseases like leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
“Understanding how you control the immune system is a big theme in treatment for these diseases,” says David A. Williams, MD, chief of Hematology/Oncology and director of Clinical and Translational Research at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate chair of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber. “We’re increasingly understanding how cancer tones down the immune system, allowing us to design treatment to turn the immune system back up and help the patient fight the disease.”
Williams was joined by Kenneth Anderson, MD, director of Dana-Farber’s Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Program and LeBow Institute for Myeloma Therapeutics, for a recent webchat on the latest news from the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 2014 Annual Meeting. The two discussed some of the research highlights from the meeting, and how it will apply to diseases such as multiple myeloma, pediatric leukemia, and non-malignant blood disorders, such as hemophilia.
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Williams and Anderson were recently installed as the president and vice president of ASH, respectively.
As for future research, Anderson and Williams believe the focus will not only be on immunotherapy, but also on identifying the genetic changes associated with blood cancers, and how doctors can use that information to better treat, individualize –or even prevent—disease.
“Individualized or personalized medicine is going to come into focus for the hematologic malignancies,” Anderson says. “We’re also going to use genetics to look into the early stages of these diseases, long before symptoms develop, and maybe find who is at risk and intervene earlier than ever before.”
Watch the video webchat below: