A “Good” Cancer
As a practicing physician at an academic medical center, John Hayslip, M.D., taught students and fellow physicians about the differences between blood cancers. Whenever he would introduce the topic of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), he’d hear a common refrain.
“People would say, ‘ah, CLL… that’s the good cancer to have, right?’” Hayslip says, now a medical director at AbbVie. “Or, ‘that’s the one where you die with the disease, you don’t die because of the disease.’”
Hayslip would explain to his colleagues that CLL, while not rapidly fatal, is indeed a serious disease that tends to reoccur even after repeated remissions – with treatment becoming more of a challenge with each subsequent relapse.
The Missing Acronym
The complexity of treating CLL is best spelled out through another acronym: MRD. This stands for minimal residual disease, an objective measure of disease defined by a certain number of leukemia cells found in white blood cells.