Your Health: A new treatment for a rare form of leukemia

Your Health: A new treatment for a rare form of leukemia
Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 5:23 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia (LGL leukemia) is a rare form of leukemia with about 1,000 cases diagnosed in the United States each year.

There is no cure for LGL leukemia, but doctors said many cases are slow-growing, so patients can live long lives and be treated with medication.

Chris Maslyk and his family are spending as much time as possible outdoors this summer. Even their favorite backyard game would have required more energy than Maslyk had.

“I was basically having trouble walking up a flight of stairs,” Maslyk said. “I would be completely out of breath.”

Blood tests showed he had an abnormally low hemoglobin level. It was a sign of something serious. Doctors diagnosed him with LGL leukemia.

Dr. Thomas P. Loughran was a fellow at a hospital in Seattle when he and his colleagues discovered the rare cancer. He’s now one of the few in the country specializing in the condition, which causes a person’s immune system to overreact.

“The problem is that their immune system is too strong,” Loughran said. “These LGL cells are killer cells. We use medicines to turn off the immune system.”

Doctors used one of the drugs - methotrexate - that are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Unfortunately, it had no impact on Maslyk, who kept getting sicker. Two drugs later, doctors found another immunosuppressant - cytoxan - that worked.

“I’m my same, normal self again,” Maslyk said. “I’m enjoying it. It’s nice, right? It was a long time coming.”

He’s not considered cured, but he is able to manage it long-term, like a chronic disease.

More: Health stories

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