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Every September, Blood Cancer Awareness Month raises awareness and understanding of blood cancers. On International Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia Awareness Day, 22nd September (9/22), Dr Claire Lucas, Senior Lecturer in Haematology at Chester Medical School explains leukaemia and puts the spotlight on chronic myeloid leukaemia.

What is blood Cancer?

Blood cancer is a type of cancer that affects your blood cells. There are over 100 different types of blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes and

myeloproliferative neoplasms. They each have different symptoms, treatments and prognoses.

Over 40,000 people are diagnosed with a blood cancer each year in the UK, and over 250,000 people are currently living with blood cancer. Often the symptoms of blood cancer are vague, making it difficult to diagnose

What are the symptoms?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that you are required to have an urgent blood test (within 48 hours) if you are presenting with any of the leukaemia symptoms. If you have fatigue, bruising, bleeding or repeated infections please contact your GP and ask for a blood test.

What causes blood cancer?

All blood cancers are caused by mutations in DNA within your blood cells. This causes the blood cells to start behaving abnormally and ineffectively. Although we do not normally know exactly why someone has developed blood cancer, there are risk factors these include age, sex, ethnicity, radiation or chemical exposure, and some health conditions and treatments. How these factors affect your risk depends on the type of blood cancer. Is it preventable? No. Unlike some other cancers, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise have little effect on your risk of developing blood cancer.

Former Chester Medical School Student, Miss Sophie Wheldon talks to ITV about being diagnosed in leukaemia:

Sophie’s incredible story can be found here

Sophie will also be talking to our undergraduate students this year in our “Meet the expert” seminar series.

Spotlight on Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)

The first case of leukaemia was reported in 1845 and the word leukaemia comes from the Greek words meaning white blood (Λεῦκος = Leukos  = White and αἷμα = Aima  = Blood)

CML is a slow growing type of blood cancer that affects a group of white blood cells known as myeloid cells. CML is one of the best studied cancers because it has a distinct genetic abnormality known as the Philadelphia chromosome, so called as it was discovered by scientists working in Philadelphia. International CML Awareness Day, is marked on September 22 (9/22) as this has a symbolic significance. CML is caused by changes to chromosomes 9 and 22 which creates the Philadelphia chromosome.

CML affects 1-2 people per 100,000 of the populations and is slightly more common in men than women, with the average age of diagnosis being 60.

Treatment for CML has been revolutionised in the last 20 years with the advent of targeted therapy known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). For CML patients’ treatment is continuous (lifelong), the most significant advance in the last 10 years has been the finding that some people can safely stop treatment and remain disease free.

Chester Medical School Leukaemia Research Group

I lead the Chester Medical School Leukaemia Research Group; our research portfolio is a balance of translational and basic science research. With expertise in biomarkers predictive of clinical outcome in both chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). The aim of our research is to address three important questions:

1. Can we predict patients at diagnosis who will progress into blast crisis and die?

2. Can we predict those patients who can successfully stop treatment without relapsing?

3. Identify novel therapeutic targets to eliminate the residual leukaemic stem cells and potentially cure the disease.

One area we are proud of, is our work on the biomarker CIP2A. CIP2A is a clinical biomarker which can identify at diagnosis patients who will progress to advanced phase disease and die. This was the first and remains the only such clinical biomarker. Over the last 10 years, I have led an interdisciplinary team to further our understanding of how CIP2A works and its clinical significance. You can find more information about my research on my staff profile.

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Dr Claire Lucas, Miss Sophie Wheldon and Miss Kumari Bachanaboyina working Chester Medical School research laboratories undertaking leukaemia research.

If you’re interested in developing an up-to-date advanced understanding of the disorders of blood, come and study MSc Haematology at Chester Medical School.

For more information and patient support please visit:

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