Doctor: Leukaemia no longer a dreaded disease

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LANI FOUCHÉ

The survival rate for acute lymphocytic leukaemia – the most common childhood cancer – has improved from 3% to approximately 90% worldwide over the past forty years.

This, according to Jackie Thomson, a clinical haematologist who heads up the Alberts Cellular Therapy unit at the Netcare Pretoria East Hospital.

Thomson says medicine has advanced to such an extent in recent years that leukaemia can now usually be successfully treated and is no longer such a dreaded disease.

“New drugs and treatments are now available to fight the disease. For example, gene testing enables us to target our treatment and determine the most appropriate treatment protocols. Bone marrow transplantation, which helps remove cancer cells from a patient’s system, is usually used as part of the treatment protocol in leukaemia cases,” Dr Thomson explains.

The Alberts Cellular Therapy unit specialises in bone marrow transplantation. In fact, more bone marrow transplants are done yearly at this facility than at any other centre on the African continent. Dr Thomson notes that the world class unit with its state-of-the-art equipment has recently been inspected by the JACIE, the Joint Accreditation Committee founded by the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EMBT) and the International Society for Cellular Therapy (ISCT) and that only a few minor matters need to be addressed for the unit to obtain accreditation.

“The first successful human bone marrow transplants were performed in the 1960s. Unfortunately the success rate was not so good. Significant advances have been made since then and bone marrow transplantation has truly become a life-saving procedure,” Dr Thomson adds.

“Leukaemia treatment centres such as Netcare Pretoria East Hospital and the Alberts Cellular Therapy unit are critical investments in the fight against cancer,” Phillipson concludes.

– Media statement