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The National CML Society and NBA’s all-time leading scorer team up against leukemia, one anniversary at a time

For most people, celebrating a birthday or wedding anniversary simply marks another year passed. But for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients, being able to celebrate these events may mean much more – another year of life celebrated to the fullest.

CML is a blood cancer, or leukemia, which just 12 years ago had a median survival of five to seven years. Today, more people with CML are living out their lives due to significant advances in treatments. In fact, a recent survey of CML patients reveals that since their cancer diagnosis, many CML patients are continuing to enjoy happy milestones. The 170 respondents to the survey have celebrated 2,800 family birthdays and enjoyed 493 wedding anniversaries. Dr. Michael Mauro, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute, explains:

“Research looking at the role of the genetic abnormality responsible for CML, known as the Philadelphia chromosome or ‘Bcr-Abl’, has led to the development of drugs that block the ability of this abnormal gene to drive production of the leukemic blood cells and has led to improved patient outcomes. For the estimated 28,000 Americans currently living with this disease, working closely with your physician to develop and continually evaluate a treatment strategy allows you to properly manage your disease, while still being able to enjoy the important things in life is vitally important and fortunately needs to be a long-term strategy.”

The survey also found that these CML patients want to help spread the word about what it’s like to live with this disease. Respondents to the survey indicated that they have shared their personal story with over 8,200 other cancer patients. The NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer and CML patient, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, knows firsthand.

“As someone living with CML, I know I need to play an active role in managing my disease. My first step was to work closely with my doctor to really understand my treatment plan. I encourage other CML patients to do the same, by working closely with your doctor to establish clear treatment goals. Managing CML is an ongoing process and it’s important to track your progress. If you’re not meeting your treatment goals, there are things you and your doctor can do — like making sure you’re on the right medication — which can help you get back on track.”

But it’s not only those living with CML who want to raise awareness about the disease, as family and friends of these patients are often also affected by a loved one’s diagnosis. “I can personally relate to the feelings that loved ones and family members’ of CML experience, as my family faced those same feelings in January 2005 when my mother was diagnosed with CML,” says Greg Stephens, Founder and Executive Director of the National CML Society. “It was a scary time in our lives and we sought out information from a variety of sources, which all ended up being more focused on other cancer types and less targeted to CML patients and families than we had hoped for. It is for that very reason that the National CML Society seeks to assist those living with and supporting CML specifically.”

As part of the CML Society’s efforts to support CML and gain national attention for those living with the disease, September 22nd has been designated as CML Awareness Day in the United States. On this day, Americans are encouraged to recognize the advancements made in the treatment of CML and to honor those impacted by the disease.

For more information on CML and to access tools to assist you with tracking your health to optimize your care during CML treatment visit the Novartis-sponsored social networking site www.cmlearth.com or the National CML Society website at www.nationalcmlsociety.org.

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