Blood cancers are collectively the third largest cause of cancer mortality in the UK. Leukaemia and lymphoma represent the most common blood cancers that occur in younger patients.
There are two main types of lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Both are cancers of the lymphatic system and usually present as swelling of the lymph nodes. Approximately 13,900 new cases of NHL are diagnosed in the UK each year, making it the 6th most common cancer in the UK. HL is much rarer, with about 2,100 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year.
Leukaemias can be acute or chronic and arise from the myeloid or lymphoid lineage. The treatment of chronic myeloid leukamia (CML) has been revolutionised by the use of agents such as Imatinib that target the molecular basis of the disease and this has become the paradigm to develop novel targeted agents for all leukaemias.
Although there has been significant progress, such that some are now curable, the outcome can be dismal for those patients who do not respond to standard therapy. Work remains to be done to understand the molecular basis for lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma, to identify targets for novel targeted therapies and to identify biomarkers of prognosis and response to treatment.