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What Information Comes From a Bone Marrow Biopsy?

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Published on July 31, 2018

Many chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients dread the painful bone marrow biopsy procedure and may wonder what is being evaluated. What do doctors learn about a person’s condition from this type of testing? CLL expert Dr. Nicole Lamanna, from Columbia University Medical Center, shares insight on the critical role it plays on a patient’s treatment journey, why bone marrow biopsies are necessary in addition to peripheral blood tests, and what information is gathered.

Provided by CLL Global Research Foundation, which received support from AbbVie Inc., Gilead Sciences, Inc., Pharmacyclics LLC and TG Therapeutics. It is produced by Patient Power in collaboration with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

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Transcript | What Information Comes From a Bone Marrow Biopsy?

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Jeff Folloder:    

The bone marrow biopsy is not the most fabulous diagnostic procedure that can be done. It’s easier for some people than itis for others. Essentially, what we’re doing is, we’re dropping a rather big needle into the hip bone, and we’re taking out some stuff, for you guys to analyze. Why is it that we can only get the information from that? Why can’t we get everything we need from the peripheral blood? I’m gonna start with you, Dr. Lamanna.

Dr. Lamanna:  

Yeah, you know, so, the good news is that most of the things we’ve been able to do, we do off your peripheral blood. So, that’s the good news. There are circumstances, however, that think of where your cancer generates is, for most folks, unless you have just the bulky form of the disease, and your blood counts are fine. For most folks though, the cancer generates in your bone marrow. So, this is where you make your good cells, but also these leukemia cells. And, there are advantages for obviously, when you’re looking at what the cancer cells are doing.

Depending upon each individual circumstance, we know that we’re gonna see CLL in the bone marrow. That’s not the question. The question is, sometimes, there are other nuances about the disease, that are important, and we can only do that by looking at your bone marrow. So, not only can you see how much of the disease that you have in your bone marrow, there are people who can have immune cytopenias, that might be related to your CLL. And, we might add or change your therapy, accordingly, because you have these autoimmune issues, as well. And so, some of that information really needs to be done on the bone marrow. So, there’s a variety of reasons that going to the source, unfortunate for you guys, it happens to be in your bone marrow. If you have breast cancer, it’s your breasts, right? So, there are different ways, but this is where these cancer cells are generated, and so, unfortunately, you have to go to the bone marrow, for now. 

Maybe in the future, we’ll get a little bit—obviously, we’re developing ways that we can look at things that we’re really just getting off the blood, and they may become less common. But, there are certain circumstances, where I still think that they’ll probably still be important. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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