Blood Cancer Awareness Month 2022

Written by: Rosie Lobley

September was Blood Cancer Awareness Month. The overarching theme of this year’s campaign has been #ThisIsBloodCancer, shining a light on the impact of blood cancer and the critical need for wider awareness and education.

Blood cancer awareness

Blood cancer is the fifth most common cancer type in UK adults and the most common in children;1 while one person in the US is diagnosed with blood cancer every three minutes.2 However, awareness of the disease remains relatively low: 55% of UK adults could not name a single symptom of blood cancer when asked,3 and over a quarter of blood cancer patients are only diagnosed once they need emergency hospital treatment.4

Blood cancer types

Diagnosis and treatment

Because the key symptoms of blood cancer can be vague and wide-ranging, it is not uncommon to ignore them or assume they indicate something less malign, such as the common cold, influenza or COVID-19.5 In 2021 more than 30% of UK patients with blood cancer saw their GP three or more times before receiving a diagnosis, compared to 16.7% for prostate cancer and 6.6% for breast cancer.6

Common treatments for leukaemia and lymphoma can include chemotherapy; stem cell transplants; steroids; and targeted therapy drugs which seek out and attack cancer cells.7,8 Both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be treated with radiotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted medications, depending on the progression and severity of the lymphomas;9 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may also be treated with CAR-T-cell therapy.10 Research is ongoing into the potential benefits of bispecific antibodies, novel investigational therapies which are showing promise in treating lymphoma,11 with some close to attaining approval for clinical use.12

Myeloma is commonly treated using chemotherapy, steroids or immunotherapy.13 Because treatment resistance remains a significant issue when treating multiple myeloma, novel targeted therapies are being developed for patients who do not respond or stop responding to standard therapies.14 Trials have shown positive outcomes from novel bispecific targeted drugs in treating patients with multiple myeloma which has not responded to more traditional therapies;15,16 and research into targeted CAR-T-cell treatments has shown promising results,17,18 with two CAR-T-cell therapies now approved by the FDA for the treatment of myeloma which has failed to respond to four other forms of treatment.19,20

References
    1. Blood Cancer UK. Facts and information about blood cancer. 2022. Available at: https://bit.ly/3V0bep5 [Accessed September 2022].
    2. Leukaemia & Lymphoma Society. Facts and statistics overview. 2021. Available at: https://bit.ly/3SVxnTD [Accessed September 2022].
    3. Blood Cancer UK. Over half of UK adults unable to name single blood cancer symptom. 2022. Available at: https://bit.ly/3fFXwaN [Accessed September 2022].
    4. Blood Cancer UK. Over a quarter of blood cancer cases only diagnosed after emergency admission. 2019. Available at: https://bit.ly/3CnARHZ [Accessed September 2022].
    5. Blood Cancer UK. Fears blood cancer cases are being missed, as more than half of Brits can’t name symptoms. 2021. Available at: https://bit.ly/3Rq4huo [Accessed September 2022].
    6. Blood Cancer UK. Five things we learned about blood cancer services from the Cancer Patient Experience Survey. 2022. Available at: https://bit.ly/3UR5Fct [Accessed September 2022].
    7. Macmillan Cancer Support. Leukaemia. 2017. Available at: https://bit.ly/3EhBvJD [Accessed September 2022].
    8. Macmillan Cancer Support. Targeted therapies. 2018. Available at: https://bit.ly/3fC7mdI [Accessed September 2022].
    9. Macmillan Cancer Support. Treating Hodgkin lymphoma. 2021. Available at: https://bit.ly/3yb1KgI [Accessed September 2022].
    10. Macmillan Cancer Support. Treating non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). 2021. Available at: https://bit.ly/3M0GeAW [Accessed September 2022].
    11. Budde LE, Sehn LH, Matasar M et al. Safety and efficacy of mosunetuzumab, a bispecific antibody, in patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma: a single-arm, multicentre, phase 2 study. Lancet Oncol 2022;23(8):1055-1065. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(22)00335-7
    12. FDA grants priority review to Genentech’s mosunetuzumab for people with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma. 2022. Available at: https://bit.ly/3Rw6Lr2 [Accessed September 2022].
    13. Macmillan Cancer Support. Myeloma. 2021. Available at: https://bit.ly/3E9wzpR [Accessed September 2022].
    14. Uckun FM. Cancer drug resistance in multiple myeloma. Cancer Drug Resist 2022;5:271-6. http://dx.doi.org/10.20517/cdr.2022.32
    15. European Medicines Agency. EU/3/20/2331: Orphan designation for the treatment of multiple myeloma. 2022. Available at: https://bit.ly/3SPYRtF [Accessed September 2022].
    16. NHS England. Life-extending injection for blood cancer available on the NHS. 2022. Available at: https://bit.ly/3UY8kB1 [Accessed September 2022].
    17. EHA 2022: A novel CAR-T cell therapy targeting BCMA is highly effective for patients with relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma. eCancer Available at: https://bit.ly/3V8KYsG [Accessed September 2022].
    18. Clara JA, Childs RW. Harnessing natural killer cells for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Sem in Oncol 2022;49(1):69-85. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.seminoncol.2022.01.004
    19. National Cancer Institute. FDA approves BCMA-targeted CAR T-cell therapy for multiple myeloma. 2021. Available at: https://bit.ly/3e2OOCU [Accessed September 2022].
    20. National Cancer Institute. Carvykti approval marks second CAR T-cell therapy for multiple myeloma. 2022. Available at: https://bit.ly/3dYRnWu [Accessed September 2022].