Myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, encompasses a group of diseases in which the bone marrow doesn’t produce healthy blood cells as it should. About one-third of MDS patients will develop acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.
Fred Hutch is a world leader in MDS research. Our experts are developing innovative ways to detect and diagnose MDS, unraveling how MDS progresses to leukemia, and conducting clinical trials that could lead to new treatments. Our researchers pioneered bone marrow transplantation, currently the only type of treatment that can cure MDS.
MDS research at Fred Hutch encompasses every aspect of the syndrome’s biology, progression and treatment. It takes place in the laboratory, where we are cracking the secrets of how MDS starts and how it leads to leukemia. It includes our world-renowned clinical research on new methods for treating and caring for MDS patients. And it stretches through a patient’s lifespan, as we track survivors’ quality of life decades after treatment.
Fred Hutch scientists are improving blood stem cell transplantation to save the lives of more people with MDS. Blood stem cell transplantation is an updated version of bone marrow transplantation in which blood-forming stem cells may be taken from peripheral blood instead of bone marrow.
We are learning the secrets of immune genetics to find better-matched donors for each patient and developing less toxic transplantation regimens. Our researchers are also developing newer forms of transplantation that can offer a patient a good chance of success even without a fully matched donor.
All of these advances are informed by our research on the fundamental biology of blood-forming cells, the immune system and MDS itself.
We are world leaders in harnessing the immune system to attack cancer and other diseases. Fred Hutch researchers are developing radioimmunotherapies that use specialized immune proteins known as antibodies to selectively ferry radioactivity to abnormal blood cells in MDS patients, sparing normal tissues.
Fred Hutch scientists are developing better ways to diagnose MDS. They are also developing new tests for determining prognosis — the likely course of a patient’s disease. This information can help doctors choose the best treatment for each individual patient.
During and after treatment for MDS, patients can experience numerous side effects that affect their physical, emotional and social well-being. Our scientists are developing supportive care for patients to protect them from treatment complications and improve their quality of life. They are also studying the long-term and late effects of MDS treatment to improve the quality of life for survivors, even years after treatment.
No other research center matches Fred Hutch’s contibutions to the field of bone marrow transplantation, which remains the only treatment that can cure MDS. Our scientists are pursuing innovative research to help more patients find matched donors, reduce the risk of transplant complications such as graft-vs.-host disease, and extend the benefits of this life saving treatment to many more diseases.
Clinical research is an essential part of the scientific process that leads to new treatments and better care. Clinical trials can also be a way for patients to get early access to new cutting-edge therapies. Our clinical research teams are running clinical studies on various kinds of myelodysplastic syndrome.
At age 21, Shalynn Flavell was feeling free and finally grown up. Then doctors found that the critical blood-forming stem cells in her bone marrow were dysfunctional. The search for a bone marrow donor was on.