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One of the most rapidly progressing fields in medical oncology is that of hematologic malignancies. Some of us can remember the days of total empiricism in the development of treatments for these diseases, mostly due to the slow trickle of new cytotoxic agents available at the time.
Despite that limitation, certain diseases — such as childhood leukemia and adult lymphoma — became curable as a result of fortuitous clinical trials. The vast body of new scientific knowledge that derived from the National Cancer Institute's decades-long "War on Cancer" and the growth of the biotechnology industry have focused much research and drug development on the hematologic malignancies.
More recently, molecular science has allowed for a more fundamental understanding of the biologic aspects of the diseases in question, which has revealed numerous new targets for drug development. Not long ago, chronic myeloid leukemia, acute promyelocytic leukemia, and hairy cell leukemia were universally fatal diseases. Now, the majority of patients with these cancers are cured or their conditions are well-controlled by modern therapy. One has only to look at the current therapeutics of multiple myeloma compared to what was available in the 1990s to see another example of new and effective treatments prolonging the life expectancy of patients and improving quality of life.
Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center has made a major commitment to the study and treatment of hematologic malignancies, including autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplantation. New agents are accumulating at a faster rate than the current clinical trials system can handle. There is certainly an exciting horizon emerging for the hematologic malignancies — and, by extension, other areas of medical oncology, as well.
With this eNewsletter, we hope to maintain close communication with our colleagues regarding new agents and clinical trials, and to provide information about the biology and treatment of these diseases. It is our hope that the community will find this publication a practical and enlightening supplement to symposia, conferences, and meetings. We have, in the past, worked closely with many in our community, and hope that you will help us to facilitate an ongoing relationship as we look ahead.
— George P. Canellos, MD, Oncologist in the DF/BWCC Adult Lymphoma Program