September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is doing all it can to spread the awareness of blood cancer. Dr. Louis J. DeGennaro, president of LLS, has many years of research involving blood cancer. As for Christine Attita, she lost her fiancé just six months after his diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
The goal for LLS is very simple. They want to get rid of blood cancers. In this interview with the Inquisitr, DeGennaro and Attai talk about the fight against blood cancers and what strides are being made to end it.
Inquisitr: Louis, let me start with you. What are your initial thoughts Blood Cancer Awareness Month? What are your goals and what would you love to accomplish?
Dr. Louis J. DeGennaro: “Here’s the challenge with these diseases: an American is newly-diagnosed with a blood cancer every three minutes. There are 1.2 million Americans who currently who live with a diagnosis with a blood cancer. Taken together, the blood cancers leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma, are the third-largest cancer-killer in the United States today.”
“This is why Blood Cancer Awareness Month is so important. We need to communicate to the American public about these diseases so that they know where to go when one of these diseases comes into their family, where to go for support, where to go for information, where to go to help navigate through their cancer journey.”
Inquisitr: Blood cancer isn’t publicized in the media and I know that sounds odd, but you hear a lot of other types of cancer, like skin cancer, not talked about a whole lot. As you noted, people should know more about it. Is that right?
Dr Louis J. DeGennaro: “You’re absolutely right. Despite the fact that they are rare diseases, they touch nearly everyone’s life in some way. People need to know about them. The good news is that we’ve made great progress in developing therapies for them. Patients need to be certain that they are seeing a specialist for one of these diseases.”
“Sometimes, we come across patients who don’t even realize that these blood cancers are cancers.”
Inquisitr: Now Christine, could you talk about your journey and how you got involved with LLS?
Christine Attia: “I was with Dave, my fiancé, he was 26-years old. He was a great example of some of the things that Dr. Lou has mentioned. There were no warning signs, no indications that anything was wrong. All of a sudden, one little pain in his calf escalated to growing pain all over his legs.”
“We rushed him to the ER and heard those words, ‘It’s leukemia.’ I think we were overwhelmed. It was six-month journey and we tried everything they told us to do. It was acute myeloid leukemia, which is one of the more aggressive forms of this cancer.”
“Nothing we did worked and as hard as he fought, he didn’t make it. He died at 27, six months later. I thought I just had to do something. It just didn’t feel right. I was angry, upset and I had to do something. I turned to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at my local chapter and went to them and asked how I could help.”
“That simple question ended up on this journey I could never have planned for. I ran my first half-marathon with Team In Training, which is a huge fundraiser with the LLS. It started this momentum towards building awareness and education. We’ve raised over-$260,000 in the last Team, just for AML research.”
Inquisitr: What would you say to a loved one who’s family member was just diagnosed with a blood cancer? Where would they turn for support?
Christine Attia: “It’s a tough question because each diagnosis no matter what type of cancers is scary, unique and different for each person and caregiver going through that. I do have to say that the one thing I recommend is that you’re not alone in this journey.”
“There are so many other people that open about it. And you’ll find the person next you that you worked with for 10 years who lost someone to blood cancer. It’s about connecting and finding a support network. Anyone going through this journey should connect and go to lls.org.”
Inquisitr: For blood cancers specifically, are there any advances in genetic testing?
Dr Louis J. DeGennaro: “Sadly, the answer is no. These diseases, they don’t discriminate based on age, gender or ethnic background. Anyone can get a blood cancer. The challenge is that we don’t have an early detection method. There isn’t a mammogram, a PSA test or genetic test that can identify these diseases early.”
“Patients present with a full-blown disease, as Christine’s fiancé did. What we need are therapies, potentially cures, that physicians can use with patients who show up with the disease. It’s why the society in its 66 years has deployed over $1 billion in cutting-edge research to advance new therapies. So, that when patients do show up with these diseases, physicians can respond appropriately.”
Inquisitr: How close are we to any cures?
Dr. Louis J. DeGennaro: “We’re very close with some of the diseases. We’ve taken survivals of childhood leukemia from 3% to 90%. We’re close to a cure. A chronic myeloid leukemia, we’re very close to a cure. I see light at the end of the tunnel and I’m very excited. We have to keep the pressure on and continue to raise funds. As Christine says, we have to take action and support that research.”
[Image via Getty Images]