Information for Patients

Blood cancer is an umbrella term for cancers that affect the cells of the blood or the organs where blood cells grow and develop such as the bone marrow and lymphatic system. It includes cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Most of these cancers begin in the bone marrow where blood is produced or in the lymph nodes where white blood cells mature. In the bone marrow so called “Stem cells” can mature into three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. In most blood cancers the normal development of blood cells is interrupted, leading to the accumulation of abnormal blood cells and the lack of proper, healthy blood cells.

Blood cancers are traditionally treated with genotoxic or cytotoxic chemotherapeutic drugs and in many cases the treatment is very effective, however in some cases the cancer returns (relapses) and becomes resistant to drug treatment. Blood cancers account for about 10% of cancer deaths and it is the relapsed drug resistant cancer that is the cause of most deaths. How blood cancers develop and how these cancer cells can become resistant to drugs is becoming better understood. Using this knowledge companies and researchers work together to develop new and better treatments that target the specific features of cancer cells.

 

There are three main types of blood cancers: Leukaemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma.