Comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Norm MacDonald died Tuesday, after what his brother, Neil MacDonald, described as a nine-year battle with acute leukemia. Norm MacDonald, known for his intelligence and sarcastic wit, was 61.
Leukemia is a blood cancer that originates in the blood and bone marrow. It usually occurs when the body creates too many abnormal white blood cells and interferes with the bone marrow’s ability to make red blood cells and platelets, though some leukemias start in other kinds of blood cells.
Leukemia accounts for about one-third of all blood cancer diagnoses and was the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the U.S. from 2012 to 2016. It is the most common cancer in children and teens, accounting for almost one-third of all childhood cancer diagnoses.
The main types of acute leukemia are acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is a disease of mostly older patients and affects about 30,000 people in the U.S. each year, or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) which is the most common type of cancer in children but is relatively rare in adults.
We asked CU Cancer Center member Dan Pollyea, MD, MS, clinical director of leukemia services at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, to share some insight on leukemia, advances in treatment, and the challenges leukemia patients face.