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Myelodysplastic Syndromes Treatment

At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, you will have access to the latest therapies for myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Your treatment will be tailored to fit the type of MDS cancer you have and the severity of your condition, taking into account your age and overall health.

During your treatment, your cancer care team will provide supportive care to help alleviate or prevent your MDS symptoms. With age, all people with MDS eventually require more supportive care when standard treatments and therapies can no longer be used.

Supportive care may include:

  • Periodic blood and platelet transfusions for those whose blood counts are dangerously low
  • Antibiotic treatment for infections
  • Injections of medications that stimulate the bone marrow to produce red or white blood cells

For people whose bone marrow has a large number of immature blood stem cells, physicians may use the same therapies that they recommend for acute leukemia.

Myelodysplastic syndromes treatment options

Medications can increase the number of healthy blood cells in your body. Your doctor may recommend medication as a primary source of treatment or as a means of supportive care alongside other interventions.

Medication treatments for MDS include:

  • Growth factor medications that increase the number of blood cells your body makes. These medications are artificial versions of substances found naturally in your bone marrow.
  • Medications that improve bone marrow function by freeing up genes your body uses to make normal blood cells. These include medications such as 5-azacytidine (Vidaza™) and decitabine. With the help of these medications, blood counts increase, which can help the number of immature blood stem cells return to normal. This decreases or delays the likelihood of leukemia.
  • Immunosuppressant medications. This treatment uses antithymocyte globulin (ATG) to suppress the activity of white cells that, in some cases of MDS, interfere with normal blood cell production. This approach works temporarily in less than half of patients, however.
  • Medications to compensate for a genetic abnormality in blood cell production. Lenalidomide (Revlimid™) has been effective in treating a very specific chromosome abnormality and improving hemoglobin levels.

These treatments may help to temporarily improve your blood counts and alleviate symptoms, but they do not cure MDS.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend a blood or marrow stem cell transplant (BMT). Stem cells are cells in the bone marrow that make blood cells. First, your defective blood cells are destroyed using powerful chemotherapy drugs. The abnormal bone marrow stem cells are then replaced with healthy, donated cells from a family member or matching donor. Your doctor will talk to you about BMT if this will be part of the treatment plan for your myelodysplastic syndrome.

Doctors at The University of Kansas Cancer Center have been performing blood and marrow transplants since 1977. We have the most experienced BMT specialists in the region. Our program is accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy. We also are a designated National Marrow Donor Program® collection center and are nationally recognized as an MDS Center of Excellence.

Myelodysplastic syndromes clinical trials

Sometimes people with myelodysplastic syndromes take part in clinical trials. Clinical trials are research studies to test medicines and treatments. If you are interested in learning about active clinical trials for MDS, please talk to your doctor.

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