Blood is composed of red blood cells that carry oxygen, platelets that control bleeding, and white blood cells that fight infections. Disorders of red blood cells lead to fatigue and anemia. Platelet abnormalities can result in excessive and dangerous bleeding.

White blood cells can be infected and destroyed by virus such as HIV. While diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma occur when white blood cells become cancerous. In the past, blood disorders were uniformly and often rapidly fatal, but now patients with blood cancers and HIV/AIDS are living longer and better than they did just a decade ago. 

A look forward

Breakthroughs in genetics, cancer stem cells, and immunology are paving the way for new blood health treatments. In the last 10 years, advanced genetic diagnostics have been developed that can detect cancer-causing mutations in individual patient’s blood cancers rapidly and at a reasonable cost.

This information can provide important insight on the aggressiveness of the cancer and the likely outcome with treatment. Therapies can also be individualized based on the genetic profile of the cancer cell, and drugs targeting these mutations have been developed and are currently approved as standard therapy or in various stages of clinical trials.

“Breakthroughs in genetics, cancer stem cells, and immunology are paving the way for new blood health treatments.” 

A particular challenge in treating blood cancers is relapse after an initial remission. Scientific advances have revealed that blood cancers often recur due to dormant cancerous stem cells not killed by the initial treatment. Physicians and scientists are now leveraging this knowledge to develop new treatments that kill all of the blood cancer cells, including the cancerous stem cells, in order to decrease the risk of relapse.


The last few years have seen remarkable breakthroughs in tumor immunology. Scientists have gained a deeper understanding of how the immune system identifies targets and destroy cancer cells and the tricks cancer cells use to evade the immune system. These new discoveries are being translated into new immune-based therapies, also known as immunotherapy. Using antibodies, genetically engineered cells, or special vaccines, modern medicine can now harness the patient’s immune system to fight the blood cancer. 

We are also improving our capabilities to support patients and their families through their journey with blood diseases. Blood virus, disorders and blood cancers pose unique physical as well as psychosocial challenges, and significant progress is being made controlling symptoms such as fatigue, pain, depression, and memory difficulties that can be associated with the diseases or their treatments.

Thus, we are entering a new age in the therapy of blood disorders that holds promise for patients and their families.