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Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) refer to a group of disorders in which the bone marrow stem cells — the primitive cells that give rise to all the different types of blood cells — are defective, causing an inadequate production of blood cells. Patients with MDS usually suffer from low counts of red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets, or a combination.

MDS was previously mischaracterized as "pre-leukemia" or "smoldering" leukemia because of its tendency to transform into acute myeloid leukemia.

The cause of MDS remains unknown. It occasionally develops after treatment with drugs or radiation for another medical condition, or after exposure to chemicals such as benzene or toluene. MDS occurs in older patients, often age 65 or older, which suggests that age may be the strongest risk factor for developing MDS.

Many kinds of treatments are available for MDS, including new medications and stem cell transplantation.

Our Approach to Myelodysplastic Syndromes

UCSF is dedicated to delivering the most advanced treatments for myelodysplastic disorders with care and compassion. The combination of high-dose chemotherapy and an allogeneic stem cell transplant (stem cells from a donor) is currently the only cure for this condition. However, this isn't an option for many patients due to the risks of the procedure. Other treatments aim to relieve symptoms and improve quality and length of life.

We are also dedicated to discovering better treatments for myelodysplastic disorders through research. Interested patients may have the option to participate in clinical trials of potential new therapies.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • Best in Northern California for cancer care (tie)

  • 220-2x

    blood and marrow transplants performed each year

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.