Impatient for change
When Dr. Daniel Pollyea, Director of Leukemia Services at University of Colorado Hospital, reflects on his experience treating patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), he alternates between optimism and frustration.
“We have an incredible opportunity to develop better treatment options – and even cures – for people with AML,” he says. “Still, right now every aspect of this disease represents an unmet need.”
During his residency, Dr. Pollyea was quickly drawn to a focus on AML, a disease caused by abnormalities in an early stage of myeloid cells in the bone marrow. It’s often known as the pervasive aggressor among other types of leukemia, as treating it (with therapies including chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow transplant) is incredibly difficult in the group of people it most often strikes: adults older than 60.
When it comes to treating this older population, Dr. Pollyea and his colleagues face a number of limitations: “The disease biology is actually worse in older populations and, on top of that, it is more difficult for them to tolerate the standard of care therapies,” he explains.
What is it that makes a disease like AML so much more challenging if you are a senior? Here, we take a further look at the odds facing older people with AML: