What Is Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)?

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of diseases that cause immature blood cells (called blasts) to accumulate in the bone marrow leading to a shortage of mature blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In addition, the mature blood cells that are made can also have defective function.

MDS are a generally indolent (slow moving) type of cancer which may stay stable for a prolonged period, but about 30% of the time the syndromes are a precursor to a more advanced malignancy such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). For this reason, MDS is sometimes referred to as "smoldering leukemia" or "pre-leukemia."

Although MDS can affect people of all ages, the median age of onset is about 70 years.

Syndromes included in MDS

MDS includes the following syndromes:

  • 5q syndrome (named after the chromosomal defect that causes the symptoms)
  • Hypoplastic MDS
  • MDS with myelofibrosis
  • MDS with prominent eosinophilia or monocytosis

Stanford expertise

The Stanford Cancer Center has been recognized by the MDS Foundation as an MDS Center of Excellence. In addition, doctors in the Center participate in developing national treatment guidelines, serve on the boards of MDS organizations, and are actively involved in clinical trials for MDS.

The major focus on MDS includes:

  • Coordination of patient management and scientific exchange with referring physicians
  • Patient/family education about MDS
  • Individualized prognosis-based treatment approaches
  • Quality of life issues in MDS

The Stanford Cancer Center provides MDS patients and their doctors access to:

  • Current information about MDS
  • Current therapeutic approaches
  • Clinical trials for MDS
  • Knowledge of optimal usage of treatment therapies
  • Knowledge of treatment timing and patient selection

In addition to supportive care being provided, treatment options with new agents are available through clinical trials. The clinical trials through the Stanford MDS Center are comprised of "low intensity" or "high intensity" therapy.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.

Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.

Before beginning treatment, ask your doctor about any clinical trials you should consider. Learn more about clinical trials for cancer patients.

Clinical trial eligibility flowcharts

Eligibility flowcharts map clinical trials to specific types of cancers to determine if a participant is eligible for the particular clinical trial. View all hematology eligibility flowcharts at the Stanford Cancer Institute.

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