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Myelodysplastic Syndrome

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.  

Myelodysplastic Syndrome Research

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. 

Blood Stem-Cell (Hematopoietic) Transplantation


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.

Improving Diagnostics and Prognostics


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.

Survivorship and Treatment Complications


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.

Bone Marrow Transplantation: Evolution of a Cancer Cure

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. 

Selected Myelodysplastic Syndrome Clinical Trials

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.

See All Myelodysplastic Syndrome Clinical Trials

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center campus.

Our Myelodysplastic Syndrome Researchers

Our interdisciplinary scientists and clinicians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat myelodysplastic syndrome as well as other cancers and diseases.

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance building.

Patient Treatment & Care

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, our clinical care partner, gives patients access to the comprehensive, world-class treatments developed at Fred Hutch.


A Patient’s Story

Shalynn Flavell, who received a bone marrow transplant at Fred Hutch for myelodysplastic syndrome

Shalynn Flavell 

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. 

Latest Myelodysplastic Syndrome News

Two Fred Hutch postdocs named 2021 Damon Runyon Fellows Awards to Drs. Edie Crosse and Ching-Ho Chang fund ‘creative, high-risk projects’ in cancer research August 13, 2021
Dr. Rob Bradley named new McIlwain Family Endowed Chair in Data Science Computational biologist uses data science to understand cancer biology and to seek new treatment targets July 28, 2020
Scientists discover new process shaping red blood cell development Finding could shed new light on causes of certain cancers, anemias October 21, 2019
Last Modified, September 21, 2021