Advanced Phases of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
Treating Accelerated or Blast Phases
If you're in a later phase of CML, your treatment tries to replace cells that have the BCR-ABL gene, which is involved with the process that tells your body to make too many of the wrong kind of white blood cells. The goal is to return your disease to the chronic phase or put it into remission. That doesn't mean your cancer is completely gone, but it's less active than before.
If you're taking a TKI (tyrosine kinase inhibitor) and your disease continues to advance, your doctor may switch you to a new one or suggest another type of drug or chemotherapy.
At this point, there are limits to what TKI therapy alone can do. It can slow down the advance of the disease in these phases, Radich says, but it can't cure it.
You should also talk to your doctor about whether you might need a bone marrow transplant, also known as stem cell transplant, the only treatment that can cure CML.
"I would tell patients, 'We are dealing with aggressive disease, so we need to look for donors and have a plan for long-term care,'" Jabbour says.
Use Your Support Network
Your doctors are also part of your support team. As you follow their medical advice, you can ask them about resources, like support groups or counseling for people with advanced CML. Tap into your network of close friends and family for advice and help. And talk to your doctor to see if a clinical trial, where you might be able to try experimental treatment, is good idea for you.
Researchers are always looking for new ways to manage chronic myelogenous leukemia. "We are constantly improving our treatments," says Amir Fathi, MD, of Harvard Medical School. "CML is among the most exciting areas of therapeutic improvement in the last 10-15 years, and it continues to get better."