If you have a diagnosis of blood cancer such as leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma, you will want an expert, experienced cancer care team. Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is nationally recognized for cancer care and one of the Southeast’s leading cancer treatment centers.
We specialize in blood cancer treatment, including pioneering innovations for immunotherapy, so we can find the right treatment for you. We also participate in clinical trials, giving you access to new approaches being tested.
Our team will care for you as a whole person, not a condition. We take the time to discuss your questions and concerns, so you can feel confident about your treatment plan. We provide full support services beginning with your first visit and continuing through your life after treatment.
Blood Cancer Treatment: Why Choose Vanderbilt-Ingram
Vanderbilt-Ingram leads the Southeast region in treating blood cancers. We offer:
- Precise diagnosis: Blood cancer symptoms can be vague, such as unexplained fatigue or an infection that doesn’t go away. If you notice unusual symptoms, it’s important to come to a dedicated cancer center for care. Our specialists have the expertise to get a precise diagnosis and rule out other, less serious conditions. Patients often come to us for a second opinion on their diagnosis.
- Treatment tailored to you: Our experts can evaluate genetic changes in the cancer cells to develop a treatment plan specifically for you. By examining the “story” the cancer cells tell, we can match you with a customized, precise treatment or help you find the right clinical trial.
- Innovative immunotherapy: Immunotherapy uses your own body to fight against cancer. At Vanderbilt, we are the first center in Tennessee and surrounding states offer a breakthrough new treatment for a specific type of lymphoma, called CAR T cell therapy. This new therapy re-engineers a patient's own immune cells to target the cancer.
- Full-service stem cell transplant: We are nationally recognized for our inpatient and outpatient stem cell transplant programs to treat blood cancers. Our program treats approximately 300 adults and 30 children per year. In fact, Vanderbilt-Ingram is one of only a few centers to use stem cell transplants to treat amyloidosis, a rare blood disease.
- Tumor boards: At our regular tumor boards (cancer care meetings), our blood cancer experts discuss complex cases individually. Together, some of the nation’s leading cancer experts across medical disciplines collaborate on choosing a treatment plan.
Diagnosing Blood Cancers
During your diagnosis, we will perform a physical exam. We’ll also ask you about your medical history and your symptoms. Make sure to share any unusual symptoms you’ve experienced, no matter how minor they seem. This information helps us shape your diagnosis. Diagnostic tests may include:
- Blood tests: We analyze your blood for evidence of cancer cells or abnormal levels of certain proteins.
- Biopsy: This test can offer a definitive diagnosis. We remove a sample of cells and examine them under a microscope. We typically give a local anesthetic before the procedure, so you will not feel any pain.
Blood Cancers We Treat
Blood (hematologic) cancers are not solid tumors, but rather abnormal growths of cells that start in your blood, bone marrow or lymphatic system and can travel through the body. At Vanderbilt, our experts treat all forms of blood cancer, including rare types:
- Leukemia: This is cancer of the tissue that forms blood, such as bone marrow and cells in the lymph nodes. People with leukemia have too many white blood cells, which your body needs to fight infection, and these white cells do not work properly. Types of leukemia:
- Acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL)
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
- Lymphoma: This cancer forms in the lymph system, part of the immune system that helps your body fight infection and disease. Since lymph nodes are all over your body, lymphoma can start anywhere. There are two primary forms of lymphoma: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin.
- Myeloma: Also known as multiple myeloma, myeloma forms in the plasma cells that are found in bone marrow. Myeloma attacks the body’s immune system and interferes with its ability to make antibodies, which you need to fight disease and infection.
Blood Cancer Treatment Options at Vanderbilt-Ingram
Our team of doctors, which may include oncologists, hematologists (blood specialists) and radiation oncologists, will work together on an effective treatment plan for you. Your treatment may include:
- Stem cell transplant: Using stem cells from your body, an umbilical cord or a donor’s stem cells, doctors can replace your diseased cells with healthy ones. Sometimes you need to stay overnight in the hospital. In some cases, you may be able to receive treatment as an outpatient and go home the same day.
- Immunotherapy: Doctors re-engineer your immune system to attack the cancer. Sometimes they use medicine to stimulate this process, and sometimes it involves a process that “teaches” your body how to fight the cancer. Vanderbilt-Ingram is a national leader for immunotherapy research.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses strong drugs taken by mouth (orally) or intravenously (directly into a vein) to kill the cancer cells. We offer chemotherapy services at multiple locations, so you can get care at the location that’s closest to you.
Blood Cancer Clinical Trials at Vanderbilt-Ingram
As a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Vanderbilt-Ingram offers a robust program of clinical trials, many of which are not yet available in community-based hospitals or oncology practices. Clinical trials test new and promising approaches that are not available as standard care.