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New cancer classification brings quicker treatment to some

COLUMBUS, Ohio - An international group of cancer specialists has developed a new classification for cancers of the blood that in some cases will change when treatment will begin and what treatment will be received.

The physicians have worked five years to develop the new classification system, which will be used by the World Health Organization.

"The changes aren't just cosmetic -- they will improve how some cancers are treated," said Clara Bloomfield, director of Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center. For example, the number of abnormal cells that must be present in the diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) versus myelodysplastic syndrome has changed. Formerly, the diagnosis of AML required that 30 percent of abnormal, or blast, cells be present. Now, the diagnosis is made when 20 percent of cells are abnormal.

"This is a significant difference," said Bloomfield. "Earlier, a patient with 20 to 30 percent blasts was not said to have leukemia." Instead, they were categorized as having 'refractory anemia with excess blasts in transformation,' and as a result, they received minimal treatment.

"That has now been eliminated," said Bloomfield. "Many of us felt that these patients really had leukemia, but that we had found it at an earlier stage of the disease. Now someone with 20 percent blasts will be treated with high-dose chemotherapy for acute leukemia."

The new WHO cla
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Contact: Clara Bloomfield
Bloomfield-1@medctr.osu.edu
614-293-7518
Ohio State University
2-Mar-2000


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