Make your appointment or second opinion with Dana-Farber today to meet with an onsite specialist.

Adult Patients:877-442-3324

Pediatric Patients:888-733-4662

Make Appointment OnlineInternational Patients

Online second opinions

Can’t get to Boston? Explore our Online Second Opinion service to get expert advice from Dana-Farber oncologists.

Request a second opinion

Contact & Directions

Email Dana-Farber

Main Number617-632-3000

Toll-Free Number866-408-DFCI (3324)

Maps & DirectionsContact InformationSend us a Question or Comment

How to Help

Discover the ways to give and how to get involved to support Dana-Farber.

Learn More
Give now

Stem Cell Transplant the only 'definitive treatment' for myelodysplastic syndrome

David Steensma, MDDavid Steensma, MD

When Good Morning America host Robin Roberts revealed that she has myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), she turned a spotlight on a group of blood disorders that affect an estimated 35,000 to 55,000 people in the United States.

In patients with MDS, the bone marrow fails to produce normal quantities of blood cells and the cells themselves are often abnormal, resulting in anemia and an array of symptoms including paleness, fatigue, susceptibility to infections and easy bruising or bleeding. The syndrome, of which there are at least 15,000 new diagnoses each year in the United States, formerly was known as "pre-leukemia" because about one-third of patients go on to develop acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

"But the term was misleading, because most people with MDS never get leukemia," says David Steensma, MD, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber, which is designated a Center of Excellence by the MDS Foundation in myelodysplastic syndrome treatment. "Patients have problems from low blood counts before they get leukemia, so MDS is a more accurate term, even though it is more complex."

He says that while drug therapy can benefit patients, the only potentially curative treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome is a stem cell or bone marrow transplant, which can cure up to 50 percent of patients. Wider awareness of MDS and the need for donors could increase the pool of potential donors and make more life-saving transplants possible, says Steensma.

Dana-Farber's Insight talked with Dr. Steensma, who cares for patients with myelodysplastic syndrome in Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Hematologic Oncology Program, about what MDS is and how it's treated.

9/25/2017 3:59:55 AM
  •   Email
  •   Print
  •   Share
  • Media Contacts

    • For all inquiries, call 617-632-4090 and ask to speak to a member of the media team. Please direct emails to
  • Make an Appointment

    • For adults:
      877-442-3324 (877-442-DFCI)

    • Quick access:
      Appointments as soon as the next day for new adult patients

    • For children:
      888-733-4662 (888-PEDI-ONC)

    • Make Appointment Online