MDS treatment is designed to increase the number of healthy cells in your blood (blood count). When your blood counts go up you are less likely to need blood from a donor (transfusion), your quality of life becomes better and your symptoms are not as bad.
Your doctor will look at several issues to find the best treatment plan for you. These include your symptoms, your age, the subtype of MDS you have, your disease risk score, and other conditions or diseases you may have. He may also consider whether someone is willing and able to donate matching bone marrow to you (preferably a family member).
There are a number of general approaches used to treat MDS depending on the subtype and severity of your MDS. These may include:
- Wait and watch: Also called “watchful waiting,” your doctor might decide to do nothing but monitor you if your blood counts aren't too low and your symptoms aren't too bad.
- Supportive care: These therapies help you manage your MDS symptoms. They work to increase blood counts, treat infections and treat iron overload and typically include blood transfusions and antibiotics, and for some patients, may also include growth factors or iron chelation.
- Immunosuppressive therapy: Consists of medicines to keep the immune system from attacking the bone marrow, which can lower your body's immune response and is appropriate for patients with certain types of MDS. These medicines include ATG (antithymocyte globulin) and cyclosporine.
- Drug therapies: Approved specifically to treat MDS, they work to stop abnormal cells from growing and stimulate the growth of healthy bone marrow cells. These therapies include lenalidomide (Revlimid), decitaibine (Dacogen) and azacitidine (Vidaza).
- Chemotherapy: Treats MDS by using drugs that kill abnormal cells.
- Bone marrow/stem cell transplantation (BMT/SCT): A procedure that replaces your unhealthy blood-forming stem cells with healthy ones from a matched donor. BMT is the only potential cure for MDS. Unfortunately, BMT is an “imperfect cure,” carrying many risks and potential long-term side effects. For many people a BMT is not a good option. When considering BMT, be sure to talk with your doctor about its potential impact on your long-term survival and quality of life when compared with other treatment options.
- Clinical trials, also called research studies, may also be an option for patients who do not have success with the other treatment options.