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Treatments for Myelodysplastic Syndromes

At Sheba Medical Center, our expert oncologists and hematologists take a very sensitive and comprehensive approach to myelodysplastic syndrome, and work together to make sure patients receive the most effective and personalized treatment plan. Treatment options will be determined based on the type of MDS a patient has, their general health, age, and numerous other variables. 

With a commitment to the highest standard of healthcare, our specialists will garner a thorough understanding of a patient’s unique condition and provide them with a treatment plan that will ensure an optimal outcome. 

Supportive Therapy

While doctors across the globe are still researching more efficient ways to cure MDS, the treatment of this condition is manageable and varies from case to case. There are a wide variety of MDS types, and an accurate diagnosis is essential in getting the patient the help they need. 

An individual diagnosed with low-risk MDS may not require any immediate treatment. However,  they will still need to be closely monitored by a doctor and make some lifestyle changes. In cases where treatment is required, Sheba offers a wide variety of integrative therapies and regimens.

Blood Transfusion

With MDS, the main goal of treatment is often to prevent problems and complications caused by low blood cell counts. For example, you may require blood transfusions to combat anemia, as it promptly provides a substantial increase in red blood cells. 

When undergoing a blood transfusion, a doctor will suspend a bag containing a blood donation unit from a pole, and insert a narrow tube into the blood vessel in your arm. The donor’s blood will then flow through the tube and into your vein. Usually, the procedure typically lasts about two hours. Side effects of a blood transfusion may include fever, infection or an allergic reaction, however most patients do not experience any side effects. 

Iron Chelation

Receiving blood transfusions over a period of years can lead to a buildup of excess iron in the body, which can have a major effect on how different organs function. This is where iron chelation is required. In order to treat this iron overload, drugs called chelating agents may be administered to the patient in need. These drugs, such as deferoxamine and deferasirox, bind with the iron so the body can expel it.

The way a patient may respond to certain chelating agents may vary. In response to this, healthcare professionals may tailor the treatment based on their tolerance or as needed for their welfare. Following iron chelation, a patient can expect to undergo multiple check-ups and blood tests, which will assist our healthcare specialist in assessing the effectiveness of the treatment. The common side effects associated with chelating agents may include impaired or blurred vision, rashes, itching, stomach or leg cramps, rapid heartbeat and hypotension.

Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents (ESA)

One of the most common complications of myelodysplastic syndrome is anemia, which is caused when an individual has a very low count of red blood cells. Anemia can cause patients to feel a range of symptoms that can wreak havoc on the quality of their lives. These symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, and headaches. 

ESAs work by mimicking the function of erythropoietin, a natural hormone produced by the kidneys that encourages the production of red blood cells. This action effectively combats anemia in MDS patients, alleviating symptoms and enhancing their energy levels and overall well-being. The use of ESAs is carefully monitored to maintain optimal red blood cell counts and to avoid potential side effects such as increased risk of blood clots or hypertension. 

This targeted approach helps to improve the quality of life for patients, allowing them to engage more fully in daily activities.


Myelodysplastic syndrome often results in a significant decrease in white blood cells, making individuals more susceptible to infections. When this happens, patients are often prescribed antibiotics. 

In order for antibiotics to have the desired effects, a patient should take several measures, which include taking the medication as instructed by their healthcare provider, get adequate sleep, practice good hygiene, stay hydrated and avoid consuming certain foods. 

Growth Factors

The majority of MDS symptoms result from having too few blood cells. Growth factors can be given (usually as injections) to speed up the body’s process of producing more blood cells in the bone marrow. This method enables medical specialists to ensure the precise release of growth factors, which can promote optimal absorption.

Amongst the many advanced treatment options for MDS, growth factors are seen as one of the most promising avenues for patients to pursue. It offers a great deal of relief for patients and can enhance their overall quality of life when facing a MDS diagnosis. In some cases, a growth factor can help patients avoid any red blood cell transfusions.


Chemotherapy is the use of oral or intravenous drugs to fight cancer. These chemo drugs enter your bloodstream and thereby reach most areas of your body. It decreases abnormal cells and allows healthy ones to grow in their places. Treatment is administered in cycles, and the specific drugs are matched to the type of MDS the patient has.

Beyond the primary goal of cancer cell eradication, chemotherapy also plays a vital role in symptom management and disease control. Chemotherapy may be used prior to a bone marrow transplant or as a standalone treatment.
The planning of chemotherapy regimens is highly individualized, taking into account factors such as the patient’s age, overall health, and the presence of other medical conditions.

Throughout the treatment, regular monitoring is essential to assess the effectiveness of the therapy and to manage any side effects, which can range from mild to severe. Advances in chemotherapy drugs and techniques continue to evolve, aiming to increase treatment efficacy while minimizing adverse effects.

Combination chemotherapy

This treatment combines two or more chemo agents in order to increase the probability of eradicating the cancer. Your Sheba oncologists will strategize to design the most powerful combination of drugs, often called a cocktail. Combination chemotherapy is used as a way to combat the cancer cells’ mutation and development of resistance to drugs.

This multi-pronged approach not only enhances the effectiveness of the treatment but also reduces the likelihood of cancer cells developing resistance to a single agent. Each drug in the ‘cocktail’ is carefully selected based on its unique mechanism of action, ensuring a comprehensive assault on the cancer. Moreover, this method allows for lower doses of each individual drug, potentially reducing the severity of side effects.

Ongoing research and clinical trials continue to refine combination chemotherapy, exploring new drug synergies and tailoring treatment to the specific genetic makeup of individual cancers, thereby personalizing and improving patient outcomes.

Immunosuppressive therapy

Immunosuppressive therapy is a type of treatment that is used to boost or suppress the immune system. Various types of immunosuppressive therapy can be used against MDS, all of which depend on the severity of the case. These therapies may be administered in pill form, injected intravenously, or given as a shot.

Immunosuppressive therapy plays a crucial role in managing Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) by moderating the immune system’s response. This balance is key in preventing the immune system from attacking the body’s own cells, a common issue in MDS and other autoimmune disorders. The therapy can be tailored to individual patient needs, taking into account factors such as the patient’s overall health, the specific subtype of MDS, and the presence of any coexisting medical conditions.

Bone marrow/stem cell transplant

A bone marrow transplant stands as the sole treatment with the potential to completely cure a patient of Myelodysplastic syndrome. This procedure is a complex one, but given the patient is in good health, it can be their best option for recovery. To begin with, Sheba’s team of medical specialists will administer very potent and high doses of chemo to eradicate existing bone marrow cells and prevent any new blood cells from being produced. Following the chemo treatments, new bone marrow cells are then transplanted in order to restore the bone marrow.

Following a bone marrow transplant, patients usually require post-transplant care for an extended period of time. They will be given medication and monitored closely by doctors, as the aftermath of this procedure comes with risk factors that include graft rejection, graft-versus-host disease, infections, organ damage and new cancers.

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Treatments that Take Care of Your Whole Body

Throughout the entire course of your MDS treatment at Sheba Medical Center, we will take your comfort and quality of life into constant consideration. From diagnosis through your long-term rehabilitation and follow-up, our dedicated team will care for your physical and psychological needs. To help you cope with the challenges of cancer, we offer comprehensive support services – including social workers, alternative therapies, and nutrition counseling.

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Sheba Medical Center provides innovative, personalized medical care to patients from around the world. We are the largest, most comprehensive hospital in the Middle East and dedicated to providing advanced and compassionate medicine for everyone. We welcome all cases, including the rarest and the most challenging. Our medical teams collaborate to provide the best possible health outcomes. From your initial inquiry through the long-term follow-up care, we are here for you.

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