Myelodysplastic syndromes or myelodysplasia are blood diseases that affect older people in particular. We talk about this topic with Professor Matteo Della Porta, Head of the leukemia and myelodisplasia section in Humanitas.
“Myelodysplasia is linked to damage to bone marrow stem cells, which are unable to produce an adequate amount of functional blood cells, resulting in a shortage of white blood cells, red blood cells and/or platelets. Myelodysplastic syndromes may in some cases evolve into acute myeloid leukemia.
Those who are affected are above all those over 70 years of age and with the progressive ageing of the population, it is estimated that the number of diagnoses will increase. In our country over 5 thousand new cases are expected every year.
How does the disease occur?
“Anemia, platelet disease and recurrent infections can occur, especially in the early stages. Anemia is a symptom present in all patients and can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, tachycardia and leg cramps”.
It is important not to underestimate any warning signs and consult your doctor if they are present. The diagnosis makes use of blood tests, in particular the blood count test: the disease causes cytopenia, or lack of one or more elements of blood, easily detectable by analysis. In this case, it is advisable to consult a hematologist, who will prepare any further studies, so that a diagnosis can be made as soon as possible.
What are the available treatments?
“The progress of recent years, which have allowed the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of myelodysplastic syndromes, has led to the development of innovative treatments for patients. Myelodysplastic syndromes are one of the most advanced fields of personalized medicine, with drugs capable of treating anemia and reducing diseased cells in the marrow, targeted according to the specific molecular alterations of each patient. In addition, the improvement in transplant technology now allows patients up to the age of 65 to 70 to be offered this potentially curative therapy,” explains Prof. Della Porta.
The birth of the Italian Association of Patients with Myelodysplastic Syndrome ONLUS (AIPaSiM)
The Italian Association of Patients with Myelodysplastic Syndrome ONLUS (AIPaSiM) has recently been founded in Milan, supported by a scientific committee directed by Professor Della Porta.
The aim of the Association is to provide patients and their families with information on problems related to this disease and how to deal with them, new treatment opportunities and the frontiers of scientific research.
The birth of the Association is the result of a sharing process that began in May 2016, on the occasion of the first meeting with patients in Milan, promoted by the Lombardy Hematological Network.