Treatments for Myelodysplastic Syndrome

November 12, 2012

Treatments for Myelodysplastic Syndrome

There are several different types of myelodysplastic syndrome, but you don’t want to be diagnosed with any one of them. But even if you are, it is not the end of your life. Although these bone marrow diseases are incurable, they are treatable. In the worst case scenario, a patient would need to undergo a bone marrow transplant, but this is not necessary for all people suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome or MS.

Treatment for these diseases focuses on slowing down the diseases’ progression and maintaining a good quality of life for the patient. The patient’s bone marrow is unable to make the amount of red blood cells necessary for health or makes malformed red blood cells. Since red blood cells are crucial for transporting oxygen around the body, people with MS feel exhausted all of the time and looking pale.


Chemotherapy is often the main course of treatment for many patients suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome. Although not usually described as cancers, MS does act similarly to cancers of the bone marrow and respond to cancer treatments. Chemotherapy might be used in conjunction with other types of treatments, such as stem cell therapy.

Chemotherapy does present a problem for patients that have undergone previous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation to treat cancer. Radiation, often used for cancer treatments, is not used for myelodysplastic syndrome patients. Patients that are diagnosed with MS with no known cause and no past history of cancer may be advised to try chemotherapy.

Blood Transfusions for Myelodysplastic Syndrome

This attempts to replace the defective blood with healthy blood. This is a long process and may need to be repeated throughout the patient’s life. Blood transfusions are necessary to help prevent potentially fatal damage to the patient’s internal organs such as the live and kidneys. The organs are damaged from the high amounts of iron in the abnormal blood. The patient is also given a drug with the new blood that helps absorb the extra iron so it will pass out of the patient’s body.

If a patient with MS begins bleeding, he or she may bleed to death because their blood lacks the ability to clot. Patients who are “bleeders” or who need surgery (such as during bone marrow transplants) are given platelet transfusions to help slow down excessive bleeding.

Stem Cell Therapy for Myelodysplastic Syndrome

This is a promising new therapy using a donor’s stem cells. These stem cells can be easily coaxed to grow into healthy bone marrow cells and replace the diseased bone marrow. Trying to find a suitable donor may be time consuming, but close family members of the patient often are a match. Donors only need to donate blood and usually does not need to provide any bone marrow.

While the donor’s stem cells are being extracted and kept in a freezer, the defective bone marrow is destroyed through chemotherapy treatments. It is only after a course of chemotherapy is complete can the new blood be slowly added to the patient’s body through an intravenous drip.

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