Dana-Farber named to national Myelodysplastic Syndromes consortium


David Steensma, MDDavid Steensma, MD

Six-institution, $16 million program formed to advance treatments and outcomes for patients suffering from bone marrow and blood disorder

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has been named to a six-institution, $16 million consortium formed to advance the treatments and outcomes for patients suffering from Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), a group of diseases that affect the bone marrow and blood. The MDS Clinical Research Consortium is a five-year research program that is focused on conducting Phase I and Phase II clinical trials along with pilot studies to identify and confirm new treatments and therapies for MDS. It also will create a multi-institutional patient and clinical database to further epidemiological and translational studies. The consortium is sponsored by the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation of Rockville, Md., and supported by the Edward P. Evans Foundation.

David Steensma, MD, will lead the efforts at Dana-Farber, which is designated a Center of Excellence by the Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation.

Although a relatively rare disorder, at least 15,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with MDS each year. ABC "Good Morning America" host Robin Robert's recent announcement of her diagnosis of MDS and author and filmmaker Nora Ephron's death from complications the disease has raised public awareness about MDS.

MDS is the result of the bone marrow's inability to produce normal quantities of blood cells, and the cells themselves are often abnormal, resulting in anemia or other low blood counts and an array of symptoms including paleness, fatigue, susceptibility to infections, and easy bruising or bleeding. It can develop at any age, but is most commonly diagnosed in people age 60 and older. Drug therapy can extend patients' lives and relieve some MDS-associated symptoms, but currently the only potentially curative treatment for MDS is a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.

"One of the challenges of studying MDS is that it is a group of rare blood disorders, and one institution's clinical and research activities typically are not enough to generate, in a timely manner, the research needed to provide a better understanding of MDS," explains Steensma. "By working together, however, faculty at the six institutions will collaborate on clinical trials and share clinical and laboratory observations, which will help us to more quickly develop new and better treatments for MDS."

In addition to Dana-Farber, the consortium's other members are the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute; MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa Bay, Fla.; Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York; and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore.

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