Published on March 6, 2020
Acute myeloid leukemia is a fast-moving disease. After diagnosis, it is important to quickly develop a treatment plan. Hitting the cancer with two drugs, each attacking the cancer cells in a different way, is often the path to reduce the number of leukemic cells as possible. With a large amount of the cancer gone, blood counts improve, and the patient starts to feel better.
Unfortunately, Cancer Cells Are Smart
Andrew Schorr, Patient Power Co-Founder, sat down with leading AML experts to find out what happens when the cancer cells do not cooperate with the treatment plan. Dr. Uma Borate from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland explains that it is true that by giving “two or more drugs together, the risk of resistance emerging in these cancer cells is minimized”—but cancer cells can “figure out, after a while, the therapies that we’re giving.”
When the cancer comes back, it is tougher to treat. According to Dr. Hetty Carraway from the Cleveland Clinic, this is the reason that the treatment team will get together again and ask, “What is working well? What are the promising agents, and what do we really want to pursue that are the best candidates for next therapy?” It is important to understand how these cells evaded treatment in the first place. Testing can prove invaluable to a team trying to figure out what to do next.
While repeating genomic testing is often recommended to see if there has been a change in the cancer, Dr. Amer Zeidan from Yale University emphasizes the importance of involving one of the larger cancer centers to make sure your doctor has access to the latest treatments as well as quick test results: “In bigger institutions, you might have results come back relatively quickly, where you decide on using a certain treatment if you have certain mutations.” Smaller centers sometimes need to send tests to a send-out lab, and results can take weeks to receive. With AML, time is important, Andrew Schorr reminds us to “make your move early.”
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