Orlando-based healthcare company AdventHealth developed a novel immunotherapy treatment designed to treat patients with AML and MDS whose conditions failed to respond to other treatments. In addition, the organization is performing a clinical trial to understand the treatment’s efficacy.
Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of progressive conditions that cause the bone marrow to fail to produce enough healthy platelets, or red or white blood cells. Oftentimes, these cells never leave the bone marrow or die quickly.
There are five subsets of MDS: refractory anemia, refractory anemia with sideroblasts, chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, refractory anemia with excess blasts, and refractory anemia with excess blasts in transformation. The specific type can be determined based on bone marrow examination.
Life expectancy varies based on MDS severity. In around half of all cases, MDS progressively develops into AML. MDS most commonly affects men and those older than 60. Symptoms are based on blood cell levels:
- Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia). When platelets are low, it affects blood clotting. Patients with thrombocytopenia will bleed and bruise more easily.
- Low red blood cell count (anemia). Additional symptoms include fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath and chest pain, and heart palpitations (irregular heartbeats).
- Low white blood cell count (neutropenia). People with neutropenia often experience more lung, sinus, skin, and urinary tract infections.
Learn about MDS.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), or acute myelogenous leukemia, is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. When the DNA of bone marrow cells is damaged, the cells don’t develop properly. Instead, the immature cells develop into myeloblasts, or abnormal white blood cells. The bone marrow can also make abnormal platelets or red blood cells. These don’t function properly. Rather, they build up in the bone marrow and push out healthy blood cells.
AML progresses quickly. Risk factors include biological sex (male), smoking, prior chemotherapy or radiation, or blood disorders. Symptoms of AML include:
- Pale skin and frequent, easy, and deep bruising
- Random and unusual bleeding in areas like the gums or nose
- Frequent infections
- Bone pain
- Shortness of breath
The five-year survival rate of AML is 28.7%. This is fairly low in comparison to other types of cancer, like leukemia, which has a 63.7% five-year survival rate.
Learn more about AML.
AdventHealth’s Novel Therapy
AdventHealth noticed an unmet need in the blood cancer community: treatments for those whose other therapy did not work. For these patients, 40% relapse. In many cases, this relapse is fatal.
As a result, they developed Antigen-Specific T-Cell therapy. This therapy uses T-cells, a type of immune cell, to target antigens, a foreign invader. Specifically, AdventHealth creates Antigen-Specific T-Cells by removing white blood cells from donated blood, creating T-cells specific to a patient’s tumors, and then introducing these cells into the patient’s blood. Then, the T-cells are specially formulated to go after specific cancerous cells, making it a targeted and personalized treatment approach.
Dr. Juan Carlos Varela notes that the precision and personalization makes this a unique option for many patients.
Currently, AdventHealth is running a clinical trial to determine the efficacy of Antigen-Specific T-Cell therapy. Additional data will be available in the future.