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Shortcomings in the management of elderly patients with myelodysplastic syndromes highlighted – UK

A new Call to Action, has been launched by the MDS UK Patient Support Group and Leukaemia CARE with support from Celgene, reveals that elderly patients in the UK with a rare form of blood cancer, known as Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), are not being managed according to official treatment guidelines resulting in the potential for substandard care.[i] The Call to Action developed by experts within the fields of MDS and care of the elderly, calls for those responsible for the management of elderly patients with MDS to take the recommended steps to improve the outlook and quality of life of patients living with this life threatening condition.

Sophie Wintrich, Chief Executive, MDS UK Patient Support Group comments: “Care of the elderly is less than ideal and this is particularly the case for elderly cancer patients with under treatment identified as one of a number of factors contributing to around 14,000 avoidable deaths in the UK each year[ii]. It is important for healthcare professionals working in the field of MDS to ensure that failings in the care of elderly MDS patients are tackled head on by implementing the recommendations outlined in this Call to Action and the recently published British Committee for Standards in Haematology (BCSH) MDS guidelines. This report calls for all healthcare professionals who are in contact with these patients to offer a level of care and treatment based on their specific needs and not solely on their chronological age. By implementing these recommendations, this will ultimately improve the lives of MDS patients and their families.”

The Call to Action entitled ‘Addressing the management of MDS in elderly patients: a time for change’ urges healthcare professionals to take immediate action to tackle the unmet need in the current standard of care of elderly MDS patients by:

  • Ensuring effective communication between geriatricians, haematologists, GP’s, hospital managers, MDT coordinators and haematology nurses
  • Reporting all MDS cases to a centralised database like the National Cancer Intelligence Network for registration
  • Ensuring all patients, regardless of age, receive the best treatment for optimal care

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer, NHS England and founder of Britain Against Cancer comments: “This Call to Action highlights another example of the inequalities of cancer care experienced by elderly patients. It has highlighted some key considerations in the area of MDS and it is important that cancer specialists from all disciplines work together to address the disparities in elderly cancer care. It is vital that medical professionals involved at each stage of patient care ensure that elderly patients are being properly managed and treated with the care, consideration and attention they deserve.”

This Call to Action and subsequent recommendations were developed and discussed by a UK taskforce of 13 experts working in the field of haematology and geriatric medicine along with representatives from the MDS UK Patient Support Group and Leukaemia CARE, who were brought together at a round table discussion in 2013. These recommendations were based on clinical practice experience and subsequent expert consensus. The roundtable meeting and subsequent Call to Action was funded by a restricted grant from Celgene. MDS UK Patient Support Group and Leukaemia CARE led the development and editing of this Call to Action with support from Celgene. The digital version of the report can be downloaded from both the MDS Patient Support Group and Leukaemia CARE websites.


Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.

[i] Addressing the management of MDS in elderly patients: a time for change. 2014

[ii] Moller H. et al. High cancer mortality rates in the elderly in the UK. Cancer Epidemiology. 2011; 35(5): 407-12. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21852216 [Last accessed: September 2014]

Source: MDS UK Patient Support Group and Leukaemia CARE & Celgene Corporation