Blood runs through every organ and tissue in the body and contains cells and molecules that are vital to our health and well-being.

Because blood performs a variety of essential functions in the body, any abnormality can affect a person’s overall health in a number of ways. For example, a patient with sickle cell disease is at risk for a multitude of other health complications, including organ damage and stroke. However, few people understand the complexities that surround this and other blood disorders that affect millions of people around the world.

Remarkable advances

For more than 50 years, hematologists have made momentous strides in research, leading to diagnosis, effective treatment and prevention of many serious and costly blood diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, hemophilia, blood clots, and sickle cell disease.

"Many people are unaware that research discoveries made by hematologists have had an enormous ripple effect throughout all of medicine. Hematology advances help patients with other types of cancers, such as solid tumors, heart disease, and stroke."

As a result of research breakthroughs in hematology, bone marrow transplantation has become a curative treatment for multiple cancers and other deadly diseases of the blood, children are routinely cured of acute lymphocytic leukemia — a blood cancer that as recently as the 1960s had a 100 percent fatality rate – and previously lethal chronic myeloid leukemia in adults can now be treated with a daily, well-tolerated pill.

Death rates

Additionally, many people are unaware that research discoveries made by hematologists have had an enormous ripple effect throughout all of medicine. Indeed, hematology advances help patients with other types of cancers, such as solid tumors, heart disease, and stroke. For example, blood thinners effectively treat or prevent blood clots and strokes. As a result, death rates from heart attacks and strokes are reduced by new forms of anti-clotting drugs. Stem cell transplantation can cure inherited metabolic disorders, and gene therapy holds the promise of effectively treating many hereditary diseases.

Yet blood health goes beyond the concept of disease and clinical care; it involves policy and advocacy work to ensure that strides continue to be made. Perhaps you or a loved one has been affected by a blood disorder and you would like to support new efforts that encourage research that will contribute to new treatments for the disease. By becoming an advocate for hematology, you can help increase public awareness about blood diseases and support increased federal funding for research, which is critically needed to continue scientific advances in the field.

For those interested in learning more about blood health, the importance of supporting federal funding of biomedical research, and how you can get involved, please visit www.hematology.org/patients.