Leukemia Survival Rates Have Soared

Acute myeloid leukemia survival rates have increased by six times since the 70s

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There have been numerous recent advances in cancer therapies and technologies. Some of them aim to cure cancer and others try to make lives better for those fighting the disease.

Thanks to such improvements in therapy and care, the ability to treat acute myeloid leukemia has improved significantly in the past few decades, according to a new study.

Results of this study suggest that nearly half of teens and young adults diagnosed recently with this usually aggressive type of leukemia are cancer-free today.

"Ask your oncologist about advances in leukemia treatment."

The study was conducted by Anjali Shah, PhD, Research Scientist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the University of Oxford, and colleagues.

The aim of the study was to determine if survival rates for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) had changed since 1975.

AML is a cancer of the white blood cells and bone marrow. It is the most common acute leukemia affecting adults, and the risk of developing the cancer increases with age.

The researchers calculated the present ‘cure rate' for 15- to 24-year-olds diagnosed between 1971 and 2006. A cure rate was defined as the percent of cancer survivors whose life expectancy is estimated to be similar to the general population for their age and sex.

The cure rate in 2006 for 15- to 24-year-olds was estimated to be 48 percent compared to 8 percent in 1975, which is a six-fold increase. The study also found similar improvements in patients under 50 years of age.

"The good news is that nearly half of young adults with AML are cured of their disease, and that cure rate has increased for patients of all ages in England," said Dr. Shah.

However, among older patients, only 13 percent of patients in the age group 60-69 years diagnosed in 2006 were termed as cured. This number fell to less than 5 percent in the 70 years and older age group.

The study authors suggested that this difference between the younger and older groups may be because young people usually have a type of AML that is easier to treat. Also, young people can withstand intense chemotherapy and the associated side effects.

According to Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, "Things are still very difficult for older patients and the cure rate for them is still low. This is why we’re funding more important trials to improve treatments for these groups, to save more lives and to reduce the long-term side effects of treatment."

The authors noted that the cancer treatment may have long-term side effects but these were not taken into account while calculating cure rates.

This study was published in June in the British Journal of Haematology.

The study received funding from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and was co-funded by Cancer Research UK and the Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust.

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Review Date: 
June 28, 2013
Last Updated:
August 1, 2013