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Fighting blood cancer

To the Editor:

As executive director of the Michigan Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I receive clippings which reference blood cancer (including leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma) from papers throughout the state.

I noticed a June 3 article in the Grosse Pointe News regarding the American Cancer Society's (ACS) Relay for Life. Within the article was a reference to ACS grantees having "Found a cure for childhood leukemia." If only that were true.

In 1955, the medical community declared leukemia to be 100 percent fatal. By the early 1960s, the five-year survival rate had risen to 4 percent. Now the survival rate for the most common form of childhood leukemia Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) nears 90 percent. For all persons with leukemia, this figure stands at 48 percent.

The research and excellent work of the medical community have given hope to children and adults throughout the world. Unfortunately, this does not constitute a cure.

In the state of Michigan, blood cancers annually account for the fourth highest number of diagnosed cancers; and the second greatest mortality (following only lung cancer).

Alarmingly, Michigan has higher incidence rates of blood cancers than the national average; with mortality rates for leukemia among white males (one of the demographic groups tracked by the National Cancer Institute) being the highest nationwide

Over 700,000 Americans and 23,000 Michigan residents are currently living with blood cancer. Nearly 120,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a blood cancer this year; sadly, over 60,000 will lose their battle with these diseases.

We are hopeful that research, education and patient support programs provided by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and other groups such as the American Cancer Society, along with improvements in therapies and treatments, will continue to result in improved survival rates and eventually a cure.

As a measure of my organization's commitment to finding a cure, we have funded over $360 million in research since our founding in 1949. This year alone, we will commit nearly $45 million to support 350 researchers worldwide.

One of our greatest challenges is increasing awareness that leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are cancers and that they affect the young and old alike with an indiscriminate fury. There are very few known risk factors and diagnosis is usually complicated by its myriad of symptoms.

Please let your readers know that their support of our mission will help eradicate these hideous diseases and that The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is an outstanding resource to support patients and their families through each stage of their battle.

Thank you for your time, attention and support.

James B. Slaughter

Executive Director

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

James B. Slaughter
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
September 29, 2004

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