Hope available for patients with anemia and myelodysplastic syndrome

(San Diego, Calif., December 8, 2003) Several studies presented during the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) provide hope for patients with red blood cell diseases in the form of potential new treatments, as well as guidance for health care providers in caring for patients.

Anemia is a disease in which the blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells to carry appropriate levels of oxygen to patients' tissues, making them feel tired. Many types of anemia exist, each with its own cause, such as an iron or vitamin deficiency, blood loss, chronic illness, a genetic or acquired defect or disease, or a medication side effect. Anemia can be temporary or long-term and can range from mild to severe. Anemia affects more than three million Americans, making it the most common blood disorder in the United States. Women and people with chronic diseases are at increased risk for the condition.

A related disease is myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease that in mild cases may present primarily as anemia. Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is characterized by abnormal blood-forming cells of the bone marrow, which produce too few red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The bone marrow is unable to produce blood cells effectively, and many of the formed cells are abnormal or defective. The abnormal cells are usually destroyed before they leave the bone marrow or shortly after they enter the bloodstream. As a result, patients experience a shortage of blood cells, which is reflected in their low blood counts. MDS may be a form of cancer, according to most hematologists, since it is considered a clonal disease with a single population of abnormal cells.

"These blood disorders are not simply quality of life diseases, but carry with them serious health concerns that may endanger patients' lives," said Stanley Schrier, M.D., President-Elect of the American Society of Hem

Contact: Aimee Frank
American Society of Hematology

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