Cancer specialists at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center began using the drug Revlimid to treat a blood disorder and found that it may possibly eradicate myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood disorder more common than leukemia. Originally the drug was administered to MDS patients to reduce the need for transfusions. Researchers discovered that Revlimid had immune-boosting properties similar to those of thalidomide, but with fewer side effects. Six months into a study of 115 people carrying the most common chromosome abnormality that causes MDS, researchers discovered that 66% of the patients no longer required blood transfusions and, a year later, 75% did not require blood transfusions. According to the research team, the most surprising finding was that the genetic mutation that caused MDS diminished in 81% of the patients and disappeared completely in 51% of the patients. Dr. Bruce Johnson of the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston remarked, "If you extrapolate what they saw, it's one of the signs for long remission."
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.