A deep dive into Australia’s second most-diagnosed cancer – blood cancer

What is blood cancer?

The blood is made up of different 3 different types of blood cells, each with a different function:

  • White blood cells – fight off infection,
  • Red blood cells – carry oxygen,
  • Platelets – form blood clots.

Blood cancer starts when abnormal cells start growing out of control. These out-of-control cells affect the function of healthy blood cells that fight of infection and create new cells.

How prevalent is blood cancer in Australia?

Each year, 11,500 Australians are diagnosed with blood cancer.

These diseases, accounting for one in 10 cancers diagnosed nationally, claim 4000 lives every year.

Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has funded $10.7 million to Medical Research Institutes to advance the understanding, testing, and treatment of blood cancer, so that Australians diagnosed with blood cancer can go onto live long and healthy lives.

How does blood cancer occur?

Blood cancer, or hematologic cancer, often starts in the bone marrow where blood is produced. There are four main types of blood cancer:

Leukaemia is caused by the accumulation of excess, abnormal white blood cells. Leukaemias are grouped according to the type of white blood cell that is affected – either lymphoid or myeloid cells. There are two main types of leukaemia – acute and chronic. The key difference between the two is that chronic leukaemia is slow-growing, whereas acute leukaemia is fast growing and progresses quickly without treatment.

Lymphoma is a cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. The cells that make up the lymphatic system – lymphocytes – are a type of white blood cell that fight infection in the body. The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The key difference between the two is that in Hodgkin lymphoma, Reed-Stenberg cells – large abnormal lymphocytes that may contain one or more nucleus – are present.

Myeloma is a cancer that starts in the blood’s plasma cell, a kind of white blood cell that is created in the bone marrow. Because bone marrow is found throughout the body, Myeloma can affect multiple areas at once, this is why the cancer is often called Multiple Myeloma.

What are the symptoms of blood cancer?

The symptoms of blood cancer vary by type and progression. Common symptoms include:

  • Anaemia
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Pain in the bones or joints
  • Swollen lymph glands

What blood cancer research is ACRF funding?

In 2016 the ACRF funded Alfred Health and Monash University to establish the ACRF Blood Cancer Therapeutics Centre.

The ACRF Blood Cancer Therapeutics Centre is home to the latest technology in blood cancer. The centre enables researchers to discover therapies, track patient responses and monitor patients 1000x more closely, with the overall goal being to improve treatment outcomes for patients.

By supporting ACRF, you will be backing the brilliant ideas needed to find better ways to prevent, detect and treat all types of cancer – including blood cancer. Donate today to help bring us closer to a world without cancer.