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Jason Blake Has Cancer, Prognosis Great

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The Leafs' winger was diagnosed Monday morning with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Blake will receive the best care possible which is the most important thing but he will also be able to continue his career in the NHL:

"He is in the chronic phase of the disease and has been assessed by a leading authority at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. We have secured opinions from numerous CML specialists confirming that with this oral medication, most patients are well controlled and lead normal lives, doing all their normal activities.

"Lastly, Jason will be able to continue to play fully with the team and will be monitored closely by both the team's physician and his CML specialist."

The Mayo Clinic provides a wealth of information on CML and it's treatment which can be seen here if you are interested. The treatment that Blake mentions in the Star article centres around two recently developed medications that can be taken in pill-form:

Targeted medications
A variety of targeted medications is available to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia. These highly specialized medications are designed to specifically stop the abnormal BCR-ABL gene from working. Two targeted medications that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved are imatinib (Gleevec), which has been on the market since 2001, and dasatinib (Sprycel), which came on the market in mid-2006. Although both of these medications are in tablet form, they are powerful cancer medications that can cause serious or life-threatening side effects.

A study published in late 2006 showed that patients with CML whose initial therapy was with imatinib had a high rate of remission and a low rate of recurrence of leukemia after five years. CML experts consider targeted medications such as imatinib and dasatinib to be major improvements in CML treatment. In addition, research has shown that most people must continue to take these medications indefinitely, because when they discontinue the drugs the disease may return or progress.

It certainly puts some of the more ridiculous articles of late into perspective. Thoughts and prayers go out to Jason Blake and his young family.

Update:The Globe has an article with more information on CML. One thing that Jes noted was that the complications with the normal treatment, Gleevec, were extreme to say the least. However, the Globe article points out that just a few months ago another option was approved for use in Canada:

But the prognosis for CML patients improved dramatically in 2001, when the U.S. and Canadian health authorities approved a drug called Gleevec, which puts about 80 per cent of CML patients into remission, Ms. Dillon says.

In March of this year, Canada approved use of a second drug, Sprycel, for patients for whom Gleevec causes bad side effects or doesn't work.

Based on Blake's press conference last night it seems that they caught this condition very early and the Leafs' doctor was extremely optimistic. Blake, as can be imagined, was struggling to keep his composure but he really lost it when he spoke about his young children. By all accounts he will be able to see them grow up and I am sure that was the only thing on his mind when he was given the news. It's certainly a good reminder of why annual physicals are beneficial.