Reflecting on the past
Just a decade or two ago, a person diagnosed with blood cancer faced a narrow path forward: chemotherapy, radiation, perhaps a bone marrow transplant. Treatment delivered in a hospital setting, with 5-year survival rates hanging in the teens.
Flash forward to today, where scientific innovation has greatly changed the treatment landscape for blood cancer, driven primarily by targeted therapies that disrupt cancer cell growth and survival.
Five-year survival rates for leukemia alone have nearly doubled from 34 percent in the mid-1970s to 66 percent in the early-mid 2000s, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Treatment changes in the past 10 years alone have proven life-changing for one person with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). At his time of diagnosis over a decade ago, Ben Greenlee’s doctor did something that may seem counterintuitive: He told Ben not to treat his blood cancer.
“He said, ‘Well, we don’t really have options now, but by the time you need it, there’ll be better options out there,’” Greenlee says. “Which didn’t sound as hopeful as he meant it, it felt like a death sentence.”
As it turns out, Greenlee’s doctor was indeed correct and now Ben has the right treatment plan.
While great strides have occurred, cancer researchers are motivated to continue advancing science for those with more aggressive and difficult to treat diseases, according to Steve Davidsen, Ph.D., vice president, oncology discovery research, AbbVie.
“The field of oncology is really in a renaissance time right now,” he says. “We’re making progress and slowly chipping away, but there is still a ton of unmet need and work ahead of us.”