Kenneth C. Anderson, M.D.
President, American Society of Hematology
Blood runs through every organ and tissue in our bodies. It contains cells and molecules that are vital to our health and well-being. In fact, just a single drop of blood can reveal clues about even the most obscure or complex health conditions that might otherwise remain undiagnosed.
Because blood performs a wide variety of essential functions in the body, any abnormality found in the blood 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.
For more than 50 years, hematologists have made momentous strides in research that have not only revolutionized the treatment of many serious blood diseases but have also led to remarkable advancements in several types of cancer and diseases affecting other parts of the body.
As a result of research breakthroughs in hematology, bone marrow transplantation has become a curative treatment for some cancers and other deadly diseases of the blood. Treatments have become so effective and tolerable that children are routinely cured of acute lymphocytic leukemia — a blood cancer that as recently as the 1960s had a 100 percent fatality rate — and adults with chronic myeloid leukemia can live normal lives by taking a daily pill.
Furthermore, because blood is so easy to access and study, hematologists have been pioneers of cutting-edge treatments using gene therapy and genome editing to effectively treat and potentially cure cancer and genetic diseases of the blood and bone marrow.
Advances in hematology have helped to treat patients with heart attacks, stroke and some types of cancers. For example, blood thinners can be highly effective treatment for heart attacks and strokes. As a result, death rates from heart attacks and strokes are reduced by new and improved anti-clotting drugs. As another example, stem cell transplantation can cure inherited metabolic disorders, and gene therapy holds the promise of effectively treating many hereditary diseases.
Perhaps you or a loved one has been affected by a blood disorder, and you would like to support new research that will contribute to novel treatments for the disease. By becoming an advocate for hematology, you can help increase public awareness about blood disorders and support state and federal funding for research, which is critically needed to make this exciting science count for patients.