Chemotherapy drugs attack the abnormal cells in the bone marrow, helping normal cells to grow back. This treatment can be useful for MDS because the disease is not in just one part of the body, and the medication enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body. Chemotherapy drugs are given through injections or oral pills.
A stem cell transplant (SCT) is currently the only way to potentially cure MDS. During SCT, patients receive a high dose of chemotherapy drugs, sometimes along with radiation, to kill the abnormal bone marrow cells. You then receive new, healthy stem cells. Because SCTs can have severe side effects, you may not be eligible for this treatment. Most patients who receive SCTs are relatively young and in overall good health.
Hematopoietic growth factors are substances that act like hormones, helping new blood cells form in the bone marrow. While the body makes them naturally, MDS patients can receive large doses of them to help blood counts normalize. Growth factors are administered through under-the-skin injections.
Supportive therapies treat the symptoms of MDS, rather than the MDS itself. The goal of supportive therapies is to lessen symptoms and make patients more comfortable. These types of treatments can target:
- Iron build-up from blood transfusions, which can affect the function of certain organs.
- Low platelet counts, which can lead to easy bruising and bleeding.
- Low red blood cell counts, which can cause symptoms of anemia.
- Low white blood cell counts, which can put patients at greater risk of infection.