What Is the Significance of Blasts in the Blood for MPNs?

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You may have had a blood test that showed “blasts” in your blood.  What are they, and what do they mean?  Dr. Srdan Verstovsek of MD Anderson Cancer Center explains the significance of blasts, which MPNs are most impacted by them, and what you should know about their presence in your latest complete blood count (CBC).

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of MD Anderson Cancer Center, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Jeff Folloder:

Great question. What is the significance of blasts in the blood? My hematologist never comments on this. I had six in my last CBC. What does that mean?

Dr. Verstovsek:

Well, the blasts are the cells that are commonly present in a bone marrow. These are the baby cells. They come from the mother cell, and you have baby cells blasts. And then, in the bone marrow they go to the process of maturation until they become normal white cells, red blood cells and platelets.

In some conditions—like in myeloproliferative neoplasms, myelofibrosis, but not in ET and PV—in myelofibrosis because of fibrosis, to explain simply, there is not enough space in a bone marrow, and these baby cells are pushed out in the blood. And it is common, in fact, to see several percentages of blasts in the blood of patients with myelofibrosis.

We don’t like to see too many, 10 or more for example, because more the blasts, more blasts it may suggest more aggressive disease. And if it goes above 20 percent, and we confirm that with by doing the bone marrow biopsy, because bone marrow biopsy percentages are more accurate than the blood.

Blood percentages can vary from one time to another time a lot. Then we are in little trouble. If the bone marrow blasts are more than 20 percent, then we call this acute leukemia. It’s a transformation from—it's the same disease just more aggressive—myelofibrosis transforming to acute leukemia requiring more aggressive therapy.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of MD Anderson Cancer Center, its medical staff or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on August 3, 2015