Study finds elevated risk of certain rare blood cancers after chemotherapy for most solid tumors

Findings from a new study by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) show that patients treated with chemotherapy for most solid tumors during 2000–2014 experienced an increased risk of therapy-related myelodysplastic syndrome/acute myeloid leukemia (tMDS/AML). The study, which used U.S. population-based cancer registry data from NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program and treatment information from the SEER–Medicare database, was published December 20, 2018, in JAMA Oncology. NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Advances in treatment over the last several decades have resulted in improved survival for patients with many types of cancer. However, survivors may be at increased risk of developing a subsequent treatment-related cancer. In this study, researchers aimed to quantify the risk of developing tMDS/AML, a rare but often fatal blood cancer, in patients treated with chemotherapy.

“We’ve known for a long time that the development of myeloid leukemia is a very rare adverse effect of some types of cancer treatments that damage cells,” said Lindsay Morton, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a senior investigator in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. “There have been many changes in cancer treatment over time, including the introduction of new chemotherapy drugs and drug combinations, but we didn’t know what the risk of therapy-related leukemia looked like for patients since these changes were made.”

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This page was last updated on Friday, January 21, 2022