NewYork-Presbyterian /Columbia sets up new Myelodysplastic Syndromes Center

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center has established a new center devoted to research and treatment of pre-leukemia blood disorders. Known as the Myelodysplastic Syndromes Center, it is one of the largest programs of its kind in the nation.

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are disorders interfering with blood production in the bone marrow. Approximately one-third of patients with MDS progress to acute myelogenous leukemia -- a cancer characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells.

The new MDS Center is led by Dr. Azra Raza, who is also professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. A world authority on MDS, Dr. Raza has been advancing new treatments for myeloid disorders since the 1980s. Her research into the biology of MDS led to the approval of new treatments, notably lenalidomide.

Dr. Raza continues to pursue research on a number of fronts. The Center is testing the effects of novel drugs and is now developing treatments for early-stage MDS.

"Traditionally, even if we were able to catch MDS early, we were unable to treat it. Because the current therapies are very potent with multiple side effects, we have to tell patients to wait on treatment until their disease progresses. To address this issue, we are working to develop new treatments for early-stage MDS using nontoxic, natural substances," says Dr. Raza. "Preliminary research has shown that ginger, curcumin and coenzyme Q10 have been effective treatments for some patients. Going forward we are looking at a more powerful form of ginger that looks promising in pre-clinical studies."

Other research is focused on using genetic testing to identify patients who best respond to treatment in order to avoid administering chemotherapy, along with its associated side effects, when it is unlikely to work. Studies into the genes or pathways involved in MDS pathology are going after new treatment targets. This research -- and similar projects by collaborating institutions from Yale and Harvard and the NIH -- makes use of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia's Myelodysplastic Syndromes Center Tissue Repository, perhaps the largest of its kind anywhere.

"Our goal is controlling symptoms, improving quality of life and improving overall survival," says Dr. Raza.

Center of Excellence
The Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation has recently designated NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia as a Center of Excellence for research, diagnosis and treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome.

In a letter to Dr. Raza, the MDS Foundation wrote: "The Foundation looks forward to working with you and your colleagues to further worldwide research efforts; to provide excellence in diagnosis, treatment and supportive care for patients; and to extend education about MDS not only to the hematology/oncology physician community, but to patients, caregivers and the general public."

SOURCE NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center

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