According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer every three minutes in the United States and someone dies of a blood cancer related disease every 10 minutes. Blood cancer diagnoses account for approximately 9.4 percent of all cancer diagnoses in the country. Leukemia is the most common cancer in young adults, adolescents and children. From 2007 to 2011, leukemia represented 26.9 percent of total cancer diagnoses in the younger than 20 age group. With statistics like these, it’s easy to become discouraged. There is, however, reason for hope. Here’s why.
Promising New Treatments
Research and advanced medical treatments have improved the lives of countless victims, both improving the quality of their lives and increasing survival rates. In fact, new treatments have improved the five-year survival rate for children diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia under 15 years of age from 57 percent in 1975 to 92 percent in 2010. Similarly, adults with leukemia have a five-year survival rate that’s more than quadrupled since 1960.
Medical research is key to treating blood cancers and developing drugs and therapies to combat them. LLS is the world’s leading nonprofit group dedicated to fighting blood cancers. LLS supports research to find a cure, ensures treatment access for patients and supports patients and their families.
The LLS Story
In 1944, Robbie Robert Roesler de Villiers, the son of a prominent family in New York, died of leukemia at the age of 16. His heartbroken parents, Rudolph and Antoinette de Villiers, started a leukemia fundraising and educational organization called the Robert Roesler de Villiers Foundation in 1949. In the 1940s and into the 1950s, when the first chemotherapy drugs began to appear, leukemia was 100 percent fatal. The de Villiers believed that leukemia and related blood cancers were curable. The organization steadily grew. The Foundation was renamed The Leukemia Society of America in the 1960s and later became the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Throughout the years, scientific advisors and researchers affiliated with LLS have led groundbreaking research and developed new treatments in a quest to cure blood cancers.
In 1946, William Dameshek, M.D., participated in studies of nitrogen mustard, now considered the first anti-cancer chemotherapy drug, as a blood cancer treatment. George H. Hitchings, Ph.D., developed two of the first and most widely used drugs to combat leukemia in the 1940s and, in 1988, won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Other pioneering LLS affiliates include James Holland, M.D., E. Donnall Thomas, M.D. and Geoffrey M. Cooper, Ph.D.
Thirty years ago, patients like young Eli in Indianapolis, who has been cancer-free since October 2013, and Matt Lampson, a professional soccer player diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma , would probably not have survived. Today, thanks to organizations like LLS and the thousands of volunteers who support research and engage in fundraising, blood cancer patients live longer and better lives.