Cutting-edge leukemia treatment

Our leukemia doctors use innovative treatments and specialized services to give you the best chance at a positive outcome.

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Leukemia

Leukemia is the 11th most common cancer in the U.S. Many new treatments have been developed for leukemia in recent years, and more are being tested in clinical trials. Because of this, it’s important that you work with a team, like the doctors and advanced practice providers at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, who have expertise in leukemia and are committed to not only following the latest research, but also leading this research.

At Hollings, we have board-certified hematologist-oncologists who specialize in treating leukemia and researching new treatment methods. Although leukemia is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 65 and 74, it is also one of the most common childhood cancers. As part of the MUSC Health system, MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital has a dedicated floor for pediatric cancer patients and physicians who specialize in treating childhood cancer.

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In good hands

You know you're in good hands at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. Here, you have access to the latest innovations in cancer treatment, including clinical trials, advanced surgical techniques, support services and survivorship planning. You can rest easy knowing we hold national rankings for cancer care and take a leadership role in cancer research and prevention.

The Hollings difference

What is leukemia?

Leukemia is a cancer of blood stem cells. Blood stem cells are formed in the bone marrow. Under normal development, they’ll go on to become red blood cells, platelets or white blood cells.

But when that development goes wrong, the stem cells don’t mature properly and become leukemia cells. The type of leukemia that occurs depends on the type of blood cell the stem cells should have become. The leukemia cells then build up and crowd out the healthy cells. Our board-certified hematologist-oncologists have experience in treating:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia
  • Hairy cell leukemia
  • Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia

Leukemia symptoms

Symptoms of leukemia may show up as signs of anemia. Anemia means you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen. Anemia can be caused by a number of conditions, including iron deficiency, pregnancy, some autoimmune conditions, chronic kidney disease and cancers like leukemia. With leukemia, mutated blood cells crowd out healthy blood cells, leading to anemia. These symptoms include:

  • Paleness.
  • Feeling fatigued and weak.
  • Shortness of breath during normal physical activities.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Headaches.

Other symptoms of leukemia can include:

  • More frequent or more severe infections.
  • Bruising easily.
  • Bleeding from cuts that takes longer to stop or, for women, heavier periods.
  • Petechiae: Tiny red spots on the skin.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

When I got to MUSC and Hollings and met my team, they were so thorough in their care. I can’t say enough good things.

Vance Kennedy, leukemia survivor

Vance's story
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Leukemia treatment

Watchful waiting

Some cancers are indolent, or slow-growing, and aren’t causing problems at the moment. In these cases, close observation can make more sense than jumping straight to a treatment that may have side effects.

Chemotherapy

Medications, given as pills or by an infusion into the bloodstream, to kill cancer cells.

Blood and marrow transplant (BMT)

MUSC Health was the first hospital to perform a bone marrow transplant in South Carolina, and the first program in the world to perform an outpatient transplant with an unrelated donor. A BMT wipes out the cancer cells with high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy and then gives you a dose of healthy stem cells that will begin producing new, healthy blood cells.

Immunotherapy, including CAR-T cell therapy

Hollings offers adult and pediatric CAR-T cell therapy programs that help your body recognize, and fight, cancer cells. Using state-of-the-art technology, our researchers are working to purify T-cells to reduce side effects and improve outcomes.

Targeted therapy

Medications that look for specific features on cancer cells and reduce harm to nearby normal cells.

Radiation therapy

Radiation can improve cancer-related symptoms, or be used to cure cancer itself. For example, it could be targeted toward a painful, swollen spleen or toward bone pain. In specific cases, radiation therapy treats the cancer with or without additional therapy.

Specialized services for leukemia patients

  • HOPE Unit. The Hematologic Oncologic Protective Environment unit on the 7th floor of MUSC Health’s Ashley River Tower is a technologically advanced inpatient unit designed for immunocompromised patients that uses the same sophisticated HEPA filtration system found in operating rooms.
  • Charleston Hope Lodge. The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, which provides free housing for patients and a companion, is located one block from Hollings.

Refer a leukemia patient

To refer a leukemia patient to Hollings, please call patient referral coordinator Debra Oree at 843-985-0567.

Nurse navigator support

Our blood and lymphatic cancer nurse navigators, Bonnie Boyce, BSN, RN, OCN, and Katie Fitzmaurice, RN, BSN, CPN, will help you understand what to expect during treatment and answer questions you may have.

illustration of CAR T cells attacking cancer cells

Delivering cutting-edge care

For certain patients, Hollings offers CAR-T cell therapy, which is an innovative treatment that can be very powerful. In the lab, your T-cells are primed to attack a protein found on cancer cells and then returned to your body as more efficient and effective cancer fighters.

CAR-T Cell Therapy

Clinical trials for leukemia

Clinical trials are how we know which treatments work; results from clinical trials determine what becomes the standard of care across cancer centers. As a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, Hollings takes an active part in clinical trials to continue advancing knowledge of cancer care.

Why might you participate in a clinical trial? First, there are different types of trials. Some test a new medication. Others look at ways to improve quality of life. Your doctor may suggest a clinical trial believing that you could benefit from it. Because therapies in clinical trials have the potential to become the standard of care in the future, you could possibly have earlier access to a new treatment. You will also be helping future cancer patients, who will benefit from the information created during the trial. Either way, know that participating in a cancer clinical trial means that you will receive at least the standard of care, and possibly something extra.

Learn more about clinical trials at Hollings and see our current leukemia clinical trials and blood and lymphatic cancer clinical trials.

Our experts specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of blood and lymphatic cancers. Our team will develop a customized treatment plan designed to give you the best possible outcome.

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Support from start to finish

We pride ourselves on our holistic approach to cancer care. We offer you many resources to help you throughout your cancer journey, including financial counseling, physical therapy, nutrition services, and support groups.

Patient Resources

Blood & Lymphatic Cancer Care Locations

MUSC Hollings Cancer Center Downtown

86 Jonathan Lucas Street

Charleston, SC 29425

Scheduling: 843-792-9300

Hematology Oncology Hollings

Hollings Cancer Center

86 Jonathan Lucas Street

Floor: Two & Three

Charleston, SC 29425

Scheduling: 843-792-9300

Hematology Oncology East Cooper

East Cooper Medical Pavilion

1600 Midtown Avenue

Floor: 3

Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

Scheduling: 843-792-9300

Hematology Oncology Elms Center

2575 Elms Center Road

Suite: 100

North Charleston, SC 29406

Scheduling: 843-792-9300

Benign Hematology at Ashley River Tower

Ashley River Tower

25 Courtenay Drive

Floor: 2

Charleston, SC 29425

Scheduling: 843-792-9200

Hematology Oncology Florence

Florence Medical Center

Medical Mall A

805 Pamplico Highway

Suite: 315

Florence, SC 29505

Scheduling: 843-792-9300

MUSC Health H.F. Mabry Cancer Center

1161 Cook Road

Orangeburg, SC 29118

Oncology Infusion Clinic Kershaw

1315 Roberts Street

Camden, South Carolina 29020

Leukemia common questions

Have you or a loved one received a leukemia diagnosis? You probably have a lot of questions. There’s a lot of information to take in after a cancer diagnosis. Your doctor can answer questions specific to your care, but we have compiled a list of some of the most common questions for your reference below.

 

Latest leukemia news