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September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month!

By Lauren Vagnone / Sep 19, 2017

‘Awareness’ on its own is a very poignant noun and cleverly selected for the observance of the disease focused months. Initially suggesting a recognition of the fact, right up to an intricate understanding and knowledge of the disease, September’s awareness campaign encompasses the leukemias, lymphomas and myelomas of this world. Whether we grew up learning of their existence from a true heart-breaking sick relative story or a fiction-penned “Love Story”, the majority of us can recognize their names.

However, the actual breakdown of the three types may be a little hazy to some of us, so here are the specifics.

Leukemia is the over-production of abnormal white blood cells in bone marrow and ultimately affects the body’s ability to fight infection and production of red blood cells and platelets. Leukemia can either be acute or chronic, of which acute demands immediate treatment as opposed to chronic, which progresses more slowly. It is also classified as lymphocytic - abnormal lymphocytes, or myelogenous – other white blood cells such as granulocytes, giving four main classifications of leukemia: Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML).

Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system where abnormal lymphocytes have accumulated in the lymph nodes and can eventually affect the immune system. Lymphomas are categorized as either Hodgkin’s (HL) or Non-Hodgkin’s (NHL). While they are both of lymphocyte origin, once a biopsy has been examined by a pathologist, only that which has the Reed-Sternberg cell (Küppers & Hansmann) can be classified as Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and has a much higher chance of cure-rate than its counterpart, partly due to discovery of PD-1 inhibitors (Ansell et al.) The difficulty with NHL is the aggressive nature and large heterogeneity of the cancer cells, making patient treatment outlook hard to control.

Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, which can wreak havoc by preventing the normal production of antibodies, thus weakening the innate immune defense. Like many other of these disease types, these cells are produced in the bone marrow but have a nasty habit of collecting in areas of many bone marrow sites, leading to Multiple Myeloma. Early symptoms of this can sometimes be bone pain or fractures, while the circulating abnormal antibodies can cause kidney problems.

For patients diagnosed with these diseases, most treatment regimens involve some kind of targeted chemotherapy, steroid treatment or radiotherapy, while sometimes all three are used and even stem cell or bone marrow transplants. Considerable progress has been made over the last few years using immunotherapeutic agents, and the concept of manifesting our own immune response to these cancers is looking optimistic (Lichtenegger et al.Boussi & Niesvizky.)

Young or old, it is now estimated that every three minutes a person in the US (alone) is diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma, with approximately 1.2 million people either living with or in remission of the disease. The only hope for these patients is the understanding and knowledge of these diseases that researchers have acquired in working towards finding a cure.

Awareness is definitely the right word.

BioreclamationIVT continues to support blood cancer researchers through our extensive supply of high-quality clinical samples and research services.

Our primary cells, such as human hepatocytes, have been used to construct 2D and 3D cell platforms as a basis for studies such as investigating key receptor roles (Hedrich et al.)

Our newly acquired Asterand Bioscience PhaseZERO® research services have over 20 years of experience in studying and validating our clients’ areas of potential treatment interests. Immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization projects have been paramount in measuring parameters of many specific cancer targets and immune markers in those ‘pesky’ lymphocytes. This has been recently accelerated by the introduction to our array of multiplexing platforms of the Vectra Polaris, providing multiple measurements within a single sample.

We have also expanded capabilities for our human fresh blood and bone marrow aspirate collections as well as inventory of PBMCs and bone marrow mononuclear cells. Our blood products are in high demand for research use from both normal and diseased donors for studying potential therapeutic targets and critical cell surface enzyme participation, as shown by the use of PBMCs for the study of epigenetic regulators in leukemia (Pappano et al.) and the use of serum for measuring and understanding roles of enzymes in soluble format rather than on the cell surface (Huang et al.)

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