Aref Al-Kali’s, M.D. expertise at Mayo Clinic is myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Dr. Al-Kali rotated and learned from multiple health care centers but found Mayo Clinic’s focus on patient care through collaboration unique. Dr. Al-Kali was also drawn to the research that is readily available to staff.
“When I came to Mayo Clinic, there was an opportunity for someone to research, study, and one day develop more options and better treatments for patients living with MDS.”
As of today, only three drugs are approved for the treatment of MDS. According to Dr. Al-Kali, these drugs typically work anywhere from a few months to up to a year. Once the approved drugs are no longer effective, patients are treated with blood transfusions. As a result, patients tend to suffer from increased infections and bleeding.
“MDS is a prototype disease for research, because we need newer and better drugs to help our patients. We are lagging in this disease and need to make a breakthrough.”
Dr. Al-Kali’s focuses his research on MDS clinical trials and drug development. In addition, Dr. Al-Kali conducts retrospective studies to learn how providers can better know their MDS patients in terms of the disease – survival, features of the disease, and how to better treat their patients as a whole.
MDS create challenges for providers because of its many subtypes. Most universally agree there are 6 to 7 subtypes of MDS with potentially another 2 to 3 that are currently being discussed.
“The types are not alike. Everybody is different and the management is not always simple. Even though the drugs have been on the market for some time, the treatment complications are unique and sometimes those complications may not be handled the right way.”
Diagnosis of MDS is made through a bone-marrow biopsy and requires a large degree of expertise.
“At Mayo Clinic we are fortunate to have some of the best hematopathologists in the country. Because of this, we are able to help diagnose or change the staging of a disease based on the slides sent to us.”
With little known about MDS and a shortage of approved treatment options, Dr. Al-Kali is forging a new path in MDS research.
“My goal is to cure MDS. This is probably a tough goal, but if we can improve the amount of treatments available, the response rates, the survival rates, and the quality of life for patients with MDS, it would be a great first step.”