How MSK’s Clonal Hematopoiesis Clinic is Making a Difference

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VIDEO | 02:42

Learn more about clonal hematopoiesis and how it affects both cancer patients and those without cancer.

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Ross Levine, MD: What we’re doing here is pushing the envelope in a way we never have before. The exciting area that we’re working in now is called clonal hematopoiesis. When one blood stem cell acquires a specific change in DNA we call a mutation, that allows that specific stem cell to now have an advantage over all the other stem cells and to slowly increase its number and grow more quickly over time, and then in a small set of people, can actually progress to forming a leukemia. The other aspect of clonal hematopoiesis, or CH, is that people who have CH are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. One thing that patients ask us, “What does this mean for me today?”

Ross Levine, MD: How are you feeling? How has it been going?

Patient: I feel healthy.

Ross Levine, MD: And you don't notice anything from the CH?

Patient: They had to tell me I had it in order for me to know.

Ross Levine, MD: Our patient was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent a bone marrow transplant and was being followed for many years.

Patient: I was three to four years in remission. I got a call and when I went in; I learned that I had CH. I was scared.

Ross Levine, MD: She was found to have mutations in her blood that we knew were indicative of clonal hematopoiesis. In this case, it actually originated from the donor from her bone marrow transplant. When we see patients with CH, we focus on two major aspects. The first of which is to estimate their risk of developing a blood cancer over time. The other thing is the higher risk of developing cardiac complications.

Patient: After talking with the doctors at MSK, I discovered that it was something that they could monitor so, should something come up, I think they would be on it immediately.

Ross Levine, MD: So, what are we doing with this information? It really provides us an opportunity to use the knowledge from the patients we see today to design the treatments and ideas that are going to be used to intercept disease moving forward. And we believe we can actually bring the best science not to people who have cancer but to people who will develop cancer in the future and prevent that from ever happening.