Refractory patients do not respond to their initial treatment. Their blood cancer may be getting worse or staying the same (stable disease). Relapsed patients undergo a recurrence when their blood cancer returns after it has been successfully treated. Their disease can return months or years after their treatment ends. Your doctor can give you more information about your status and treatment options going forward.
- You may experience similar emotions as when you were first diagnosed with cancer
- Take heart in the fact that you’ve been able to recover from cancer the first time
AT THIS STAGE, YOU CAN
- Draw on your past experiences to help you plan ahead
- Talk to your doctor to gain a better understanding of your new treatment options
- Talk to your doctor about the possibility of joining a clinical trial
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN LEARN MORE
For patients with refractory or relapsed blood cancers, their doctors can either change the patient’s treatment or provide additional treatment. There are many drug choices and approaches to further treatment. If relapse occurs long after treatment, the same drugs that were used for the patient before may be tried again. In other cases, new drugs or treatment options may be employed.
These refractory/relapsed treatment options may include stem cell transplantation. There are a number of factors to determine a patient’s need for a stem cell transplant. These factors may include the patient’s disease, subtype, stage and other treatment received as well as the patient’s physical ability to have the transplant. While a stem cell transplant is not an option for every patient, it can be an important treatment option for some patients.
Autologous stem cell transplantation, utilizing the patient’s own stem cells, is more frequently used than allogeneic transplantation as a treatment for some patients. Reduced-intensity allogeneic stem cell transplantation (also called a nonmyeloabative transplant) uses lower doses of chemotherapy than a standard allogeneic transplant. Some patients may benefit from this type of stem cell transplant.
There are new treatments under study for blood cancer patients of all ages. New treatments are studied in clinical trials. Clinical trials are also used to study new uses for approved drugs or treatments. These clinical trials may investigate changing the dose of the drug or giving the drug along with another drug(s) or type of treatment that may be more effective than the current standard treatment option. A carefully conducted clinical trial may provide the best available therapy option for some refractory/relapsed patients. These patients should ask their doctor if treatment in a clinical trial is their best treatment option going forward.
Other helpful links
Find information and support
- You are not alone. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC) offers the most comprehensive array of services to patients and families affected by blood cancers.
- National and International Resources
- First Connection : Are you interested in speaking with someone who has been through it before?