WHAT IS LEUKAEMIA?
We say a patient has leukaemia when malignant white blood cells are detected in blood. This observation tells us that something serious is happening in the bone marrow.
Leukaemia is characterised because stem cells from the bone marrow divide uncontrollably nonstop; also, they permeate the whole bone marrow in a short period of time and snuff it out. Because of this, bone marrow of a patient with leukaemia cannot produce red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. Its consequence is, if it is not treated as early as possible, patient can die within days due to a lack of oxygen, infections or bleeding.
Currently, newer drugs and bone marrow transplantation are able to cure a significant number of patients with this disease. It is true that leukaemia of certain patients still resist the effects of conventional treatments. Even in these “resistant” cases, a therapeutic light is starting to shine.
Thus, there are centres, mainly at the United States, that give patients their own red blood cells. These have been previously genetically modified at the laboratory in order to identify and destroy leukaemia cells with an efficacy of 85 % in these refractory cases.
INTENSIVE CARE. Taking care day and night
Medicine envolves and institutions innovate together to improve quality and patients care-taking using a personalized and ongoing method. Programmes which demanded hospital admission are now taking place at “Day Hospitals” or at the patient’s home. This way, the procedure is more confortable for the patient and they avoid possible new infections or complications.
Hospital Clínic wants to strengthen the hospital HOME-CARE UNIT (UAD) addressed to leukemia and solid tumour patients, a pioneer program worldwide with outstanding results in patients with Auto bone-marrow transplant.
The challenges of this project are: to move forward on new home-care programs, keep the “Day Hospital” available at night and weekend time and reduce a new stay area.
At this moment, general emergency service is the only available option at night or weekend time.
This would help the hospital achieve ongoing, intensive and personalized day and night time medical care. The aim is to reduce incidents and exposure towards infections – major source of morbidity and mortality of intense immunodepressed patients – to improve the patient’s empowerment.
RESEARCH. Progressing on CART
The most significant reserach project on Leukemia on the last 10 years is the discovery of CART (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T).
CART consists on cells from our immune system (linfocitos T) that are genetically resheduled to attack selectively leukemia cells and leave the undamaged ones sane.
CARTs are capable of removing, to 80% of the pacientes, acute lymphoblastic leukemia that resists conventional treatment. So it is a very effective procedeure and less toxic than other treatments for the patient.
Hospital Clínic is very close to having a well-prepared CART to be used with patients. The catalan hospital would become pioneer in Europe on this section with the arrival of this treatment.