Study Finds Women With Rare Bone Marrow Cancer Can Still Have Safe Childbirth

A new study presented by Dr. Ekaterina Chelysheva at the 24th Congress of European Hematology Association (EHA) in Amsterdam on June 14 has found that normal and healthy childbirth is very possible for women with a rare cancer of the bone marrow. This cancer, chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), affects the white blood cells and accounts for 15% of all leukemias. Though it is expected to affect nearly 9,000 people this year in the U.S. and kill over a thousand, this recent research suggests that pregnant women can still safely deliver babies with the condition.

Planning the birth of a child presents a difficult challenge for women with CML. With new pharmaceutical therapies like tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), these patients can live out a typical lifespan. Being that little information is available regarding the outcomes of pregnancy in these CML patients, a group of researchers decided to evaluate this relationship.

In their work, the researchers analyzed 305 cases of pregnancy in 234 CML patients from 13 different countries. This data had been collected through observational retrospective and prospective studies of the European Leukemia Net.

After analyzing these patients, it was found that 77% of the pregnancies in CML patients ended with successful labor. 71% of these patients conceived while they were on TKIs, and immediately stopped taking the medication once their pregnancy was confirmed. With a birth defect rate of 1.7%, the researchers concluded that no severe or life-threatening abnormalities were observed in these children.

In addition, the team found that deep molecular response or major molecular response was in 44% of these pregnancy cases with known molecular status. In 21% of these patients, their pregnancy was diagnosed at the onset of their CML. During the later stages of pregnancy, therapies such as imatinib, interferon, or nilotinib.

The researchers concluded that their data regarding conception and pregnancy in patients with CML could be valuable in developing treatment plans for such patients. Their work showed not only that women with CML can give normal childbirth, but that there was no increased rate of birth defects observed as long as TKIs were stopped promptly after confirmation of pregnancy.

About the EHA Annual Congress

The EHA Annual Congress is held in a major European city every June. This year, the Congress has returned to Amsterdam for the first time since 2012. Programs addressed include, stem cell technologies, leukemia, lymphoma, blood disorders, hemophilia, and many other conditions associated with hematology.