Chronic myeloid leukaemia to affect five times as many Australians and take three times as many lives by 2035 | Leukaemia Foundation

Chronic myeloid leukaemia to affect five times as many Australians and take three times as many lives by 2035

Friday September 20 2019

A recent report released by the Leukaemia Foundation has found more than five times as many Australians will be diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia come 2035, and the number of Australians losing their life to the rare blood cancer will more than triple.

The report shows around 380 Australians will be diagnosed with CML this year, but that figure is set to grow significantly in the next 15 years, with more than 2130 Australians expected to be diagnosed with the disease annually come 2035.

Sadly, while 126 people will lose their life to CML in 2019, the report also shows that more than 450 people will lose their fight to the disease in 2035.

Sunday 22 September marks World Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia Day (World CML Day) and the Leukaemia Foundation is casting the spotlight on the staggering new findings of the State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia Report [1].

Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia is a type of cancer affecting the blood and bone marrow which develops gradually in early stages and progresses slowly over weeks or months.

The report identified that most people are usually diagnosed with CML when it is in its chronic phase and as a result, treatment is very effective for these patients. However, CML also has the ability to rapidly progress and enter the accelerated phase and eventually the blast phase, in which CML transforms into a disease resembling the more deadly acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) or acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said the State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report highlighted the need for Australia to make itself a more attractive clinical trial location and to partner in international research efforts to improve treatment options for CML patients once they enter the blast phase.

“The report found that linking Australian patients into global research initiatives has the potential to accelerate research outcomes while also enabling Australians with blood cancer to access novel therapies,” he said.

“There are currently no available drug therapies for CML patients in Australia once they have entered the final phase of their disease, however we know trials are underway overseas to test the use of a particular drugs to treat these patients.

“What this report tells us is that overcoming barriers to Australia’s participation in these types of trials is essential for new discovery and enabling Australian patients access to these kinds of novel therapies.”

The report shows that less than 20 per cent of Australians living with blood cancer today have participated in a clinical trial, and only 1 in 5 who want to enroll in a clinical trial have access to one.

“Blood cancer is at the forefront of new, precision medicines which have helped improve treatment pathways and survival rates, but we can do better by improving access to clinical trials and new therapies for people living with CML and other blood cancers,” he said.

“The report shows us that we can steer toward a future where no Australian will die from CML.”

The Leukaemia Foundation has set a bold new goal to achieve zero lives lost to blood cancer, including CML, by 2035.

“To achieve this, we need to collaborate to ensure every Australian has access to the right information, the best treatments and services, and the latest trials, tests and diagnostic tools that will not only help them to survive, but also to live well,” Mr Petch said.

The first-of-its-kind State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia Report was released on September 1 to launch Blood Cancer Awareness month, and led Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to announce Australia’s first Blood Cancer Taskforce to develop a National Action Plan to help tackle the key issues facing the blood cancer community today and into the future.

“The formation of the Taskforce and the development of a National Action Plan mark a major milestone for the blood cancer community and will set the national agenda around blood cancer for many years to come,” Mr Petch said.

The new Blood Cancer Taskforce will meet for the first time on September 30.

Find more information about CML here and register for the Leukaemia Foundation’s disease specific newsletter CML News here.

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What is Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia?

  • CML is a type of cancer affecting the blood and bone marrow which develops gradually in early stages and progresses slowly over weeks or months.
  • Most patients are usually diagnosed with CML when it is in its chronic phase and as a result, treatment is very effective for these patients.
  • Over time, CML has been transformed from a life-threatening disease to a manageable chronic condition for most patients involving daily oral drug therapy.
  • CML occurs when the bone marrow produces too many white blood cells which gradually crowd the bone marrow and interfere with normal blood cell production. These cells, also known as leukaemia blasts, also spill out of the bone marrow and circulate around the body in the bloodstream.
  • Because they are not fully mature, the cells are unable to work properly to fight infections.
  • Over time, a shortage of red cells and platelets can cause anaemia, bleeding and bruising.
  • CML has three phases: chronic phase, accelerated phase and blast phase.
  • The chronic phase involves blood counts remaining relatively stable and the proportion of the blast cells in the bone marrow and blood being low. This phase can often last more than five years, and can exceed 10-15 years. Most patients are usually diagnosed with CML when it is in its chronic phase and as a result, treatment is very effective for most patients.
  • The accelerated phase involves CML changing from a relatively stable disease into a more rapidly progressing one, and a proportion of blast cells may start to increase in bone marrow and circulating blood.
  • The blast phase transforms CML into a rapidly progressing disease, involving a dramatic increase in the number of blast cells in the bone marrow and blood. In about two thirds of cases, CML transforms into a disease resembling acute myeloid leukaemia, or – for the remainder of cases – acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
  • CML can occur at any age but it is more common in adults over the age of 40, who account for nearly 70 per cent of all cases. CML occurs more frequently in men than women and is rarely diagnosed in children.

Signs and symptoms of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia:

  • Often there aren’t any symptoms in the early stages of CML, and the disease is picked up through a routine blood test.
  • As the disease progresses, symptoms include:
    • Aneamia, which causes persistent tiredness, dizziness, paleness or shortness of breath when physically active (due to a lack of red blood cells)
    • Increased or unexplained bleeding or bruising (due to a very low platelet count)
    • Frequent or repeated infections and slow healing (due to a lack of normal white blood cells)
    • Pain or discomfort under the ribs on the left side (due to an enlarged spleen)
    • Excessive sweating or unintentional weight loss
  • Some of these symptoms are present in viral infections and other illnesses. However it is important to see your doctor for closer examination if you have unusual symptoms or symptoms that persist much longer than expected.

The Leukaemia Foundation’s State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia Report shows:

  • The number of Australians diagnosed with CML each year will jump from 382 in 2019 to 2133 in 2035.
  • 217 men and 165 women will be diagnosed with CML in 2019. These numbers are expected to grow to 1279 men and 854 women by 2035.
  • It is expected 453 Australians will lose their life to CML in 2035 – compared to 126 Australians expected to lose their life to the disease in 2019.
  • Currently, the five-year-survival rate for CML is 83%
  • CML is one of more than 40 unique leukaemias existing today. Out of the projected 275,000 Australians who will be living with blood cancer by 2035, leukaemias will account for 10,884 cases.

View the full State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia Report at https://www.leukaemia.org.au/about-us/mylifecounts/stateofthenation/

[1] https://www.leukaemia.org.au/about-us/mylifecounts/stateofthenation/

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