Bob Collymore died this morning after losing his fight with the medical condition, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). What is it? It is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal cells that build up in the bone marrow and blood and interfere with normal blood cells.
Leukemias are cancers that start in cells that would normally develop into different types of blood cells. Most often, leukemia starts in early forms of white blood cells, but some leukemias start in other blood cell types.
There are several types of leukemia, which are divided based mainly on whether the leukemia is acute (fast growing) or chronic (slower growing), and whether it starts in myeloid cells or lymphoid cells.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) starts in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of certain bones, where new blood cells are made), but most often it quickly moves into the blood, as well. It can sometimes spread to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), and testicles.
Most often, AML develops from cells that would turn into white blood cells (other than lymphocytes), but sometimes AML develops in other types of blood-forming cells. The different types of AML are discussed in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Subtypes and Prognostic Factors.
Symptoms may include feeling tired, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. Occasionally, spread may occur to the brain, skin, or gums. As an acute leukemia, AML progresses rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.
Risk factors include smoking, previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy, myelodysplastic syndrome, and exposure to the chemical benzene.
The underlying mechanism involves replacement of normal bone marrow with leukemia cells, which results in a drop in red blood cells, platelets, and normal white blood cells. Diagnosis is generally based on bone marrow aspiration and specific blood tests. AML has several subtypes for which treatments and outcomes may vary.
AML typically is initially treated with chemotherapy, with the aim of inducing remission. People may then go on to receive additional chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a stem cell transplant. The specific genetic mutations present within the cancer cells may guide therapy, as well as determine how long that person is likely to survive. Arsenic trioxide may be tried in cases that have recurred following usual treatments.
Here are some of the lessons every Kenyan should learn from Bob Collymore
In 2015, AML affected about one million people and resulted in 147,000 deaths globally. It most commonly occurs in older adults. Males are affected more often than females. AML is curable in about 35% of people under 60 years old and 10% over 60 years old. Older people whose health is too poor for intensive chemotherapy have a typical survival of 5–10 months.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has many other names, including acute myelocytic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, and acute non-lymphocytic leukemia.