What is haematology?
Haematology is a complex and challenging area of medicine that encompasses different diseases ranging from cancers of the blood to bleeding disorders such as haemophilia. Though diverse in nature, what is often common across many of these diseases is the serious impact they can have on either a patient’s survival or quality of life. Blood cancers represent the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide1, with the three most common types being lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma.
Lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer, with over 400,000 people diagnosed around the world each year.1 It begins in a certain type of cell of the immune system (lymphocytes, or white blood cells) and can be divided into two main categories – Hodgkin lymphoma, and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).2
NHL is the more common of the two and can be further categorised as indolent (slow growing) or aggressive (fast growing), depending on the speed with which the cancer grows. Follicular lymphoma is the most common indolent form of the disease and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common aggressive form.3
While the signs and symptoms of lymphoma can be the same across categories – including unexplained weight loss, fever and night sweats – the approach to managing and treating patients with different types of this disease varies. To learn more about the many lymphoma subtypes, click here.
Leukaemia is the second most common form of blood cancer, with over 300,000 people diagnosed globally each year.1 The type of leukaemia that a person has is dependent on which type of blood cell – white or red – becomes cancerous.
As in lymphoma, researchers and physicians have worked over the years to identify and categorise the varying types of leukaemia based on the speed with which the cancer grows.
Acute, or fast-growing, leukemias often worsen quickly and require immediate attention whereas chronic leukaemias tend to progress slowly over time.
The four main types of leukemia include acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Signs and symptoms vary depending on the type of leukemia and may include but are not limited to fever, persistent fatigue or weakness, weight loss and frequent infections.4
For patients with leukaemia, treatment and prognosis is dependent on the type of blood cell affected and the speed of the cancer growth.5
Diagnosed in over 100,000 people around the world,1 myeloma is the third most common type of blood cancer. It is considered to be a cancer of the plasma cells, which are a specific type of lymphocytes, or white blood cells. Given that plasma cells develop throughout the body, myeloma can also occur in several places and is often referred to as multiple myeloma.6
People with myeloma may experience very different symptoms, which may include bone pain, frequent infections, anemia, numbness or tingling and weakness,7 as well as respond to treatment in very different ways8. Because of this, myeloma is considered to be a relapsing-remitting cancer meaning that there are periods of time when the patient shows symptoms of disease activity (relapses) and requires active treatment, and periods where they are considered to be in remission and do not show signs of the disease.9
Roche in haematology
For more than 20 years, we have been developing medicines that redefine treatment in haematology. Today, we continue to invest in our effort to bring innovative treatment options to people with diseases of the blood, with research across a broad range of molecular targets and combinations, as well as different clinical endpoints and lines of treatment.
1. GLOBOCAN 2012: Estimated cancer incidence, mortality and prevalence worldwide. Available at: http://globocan.iarc.fr/Pages/fact_sheets_population.aspx. Last accessed October 2016.
2. National Cancer Institute: Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms?cdrid=45368. Last accessed October 2016.
3. Lyon, France: IARC Press. World Health Organization Classification of Tumors of Haematopoietic and Lymphoid Tissues. 2008.
4. Canadian Cancer Society. Symptoms of leukemia. Available at: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/leukemia/signs-and-symptoms/?region=on. Last accessed October 2016.
5. National Cancer Institute: Cancer Types. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia. Last accessed October 2016.
6. Cancer Research UK: What is Myeloma? Available at: http://cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/myeloma/about/what-is-myeloma. Last accessed October 2016.
7. National Cancer Institute. Plasma Cell Neoplams. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/myeloma. Last accessed October 2016.
8. Myeloma UK: Facts and Figures. Available at: https://www.myeloma.org.uk/information/facts-and-figures/. Last accessed October 2016.
9. Myeloma UK: What is myeloma? Available at: https://www.myeloma.org.uk/information/what-is-myeloma/. Last accessed October 2016.