More on Robin Roberts' rare blood syndrome
June 11th, 2012
11:04 AM ET

More on Robin Roberts' rare blood syndrome

"Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts announced this morning that she has myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS. The rare syndrome is also known as preleukemia.

MDS can be broken down by its name: Myeloid refers to a type of blood cell; dysplasia means a problem with the development of those cells.

The condition occurs when "something goes wrong in your bone marrow — the spongy material inside your bones where blood cells are made," according to the Mayo Clinic.

A healthy person's bone marrow produces stem cells that mature into blood cells. But the bone marrow of a person with MDS produces abnormal stem cells that turn into defective blood cells.

Deformed cells get into the bloodstream and eventually outnumber healthy blood cells, according to the National Cancer Institute. Often the deformed blood cells don't live as long as they should, producing a shortage in the body.

There are several types of MDS, depending on the kind of myeloid cells - red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets - that are being affected. Having too few red blood cells results in anemia; having too few white blood cells can result in frequent infections.

The term "preleukemia" is a bit misleading, as most MDS cases do not become cancerous. Certain types of MDS can progress to acute myeloid leukemia, however.

MDS can be caused by exposure to chemotherapy and radiation, common cancer treatments. (Roberts is a breast cancer survivor.) Other risk factors include being over 60 years old and/or being exposed to other chemicals such as benzene, according to the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation.

Symptoms are rare during the early stage of the disease, but can include tiredness, shortness of breath and easy bruising/bleeding. Doctors generally diagnose through a blood test and a bone marrow biopsy.

Unfortunately there is no known cure for MDS. The goal for treatment is to keep healthy blood cells circulating as long as possible.

Blood transfusions can help slow the disease by replacing bad cells with good cells. Medications can also be used to increase the production of healthy cells.

Another option is a bone marrow stem cell transplant, in which doctors administer chemotherapy drugs to destroy defective blood cells, and insert healthy cells from a donor to replace them. But there are high risks involved in this procedure, according to the Mayo Clinic, even among people who are young and relatively healthy.

Roberts wrote in a statement that she will undergo chemotherapy ahead of a bone marrow transplant later this year. Her sister, who is a match, is donating the bone marrow.

soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. ANgela Verley Goldson

    I am sure Robin can fight this disease she is a strong spirtual woman

    June 11, 2012 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. rose irwin

    You are s shinning example of brave strong woman, I know uou will beat this, My thoughts and prayers are with you girl

    June 11, 2012 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • relmfoxdale


      June 12, 2012 at 16:31 | Report abuse |
    • Hermawanto

      Posted on Good info. Loose Park is easily the neisct park in Kansas City, however the Nelson Art gallery/Volker Park is my favorite night time park.For all the guys out there, if you're out on a date, take your girl there and it's in the bag.

      July 3, 2012 at 03:58 | Report abuse |
  3. Dolly Assaad

    Oh Robin, God bless you. Will say a prayer for you every night.

    June 11, 2012 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nana

      I spent time yesterday to read the Public Protector's rrpeot, and to say the least it is damning. The Minister is proven to be a liar on more than one occasion. The difference between something like this being rrpeoted in the media and a Public Protector's rrpeot, is that a rrpeot is not official or formal notification of a transgression to the President, but a rrpeot of a Public Protector is official and therefore the President is duty-bound to act.(It is important that we are fair, and hope Prof that you also highlight Afriforum's decision to rrpeot a middle management official Tshwane to the Human Rights Commission, the official utilised his work email to send his ANC branch correspondence. But if I recall Helen Zille has been using her Premier email and even letterhead to send press statements of the DA). It seems that the leader of the DA is not able to distinguish between party and State.)It is also apparent that maybe the government does not even need this Minister, since he has been on sick leave for so long, and not a single municipality has even crumbled. Making it even easier for the Minister to act.

      August 2, 2012 at 01:08 | Report abuse |
  4. Dianne Schultz

    Will be praying for you!! You are an inspiration!

    June 11, 2012 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Laura Thomas

    Our household will miss Robin while she is doing her treatment. I pray that her recovery is quick with no problems.

    June 11, 2012 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jim Murphy

    What is the difference between MDS or pre leukemia and "A Plastic anemia" is it tyhe same thing or a bit different. Thank you in advance
    Jim Murphy

    June 11, 2012 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • stephen king

      Hi Jim, Aplastic Anemia is total bone marrow failure where your marrow stops producing blood cells. MDS is where the bone marrow is producing blood cells but they are abnormal and do not function properly.

      Board of Directors, AAMDS.ORG

      June 11, 2012 at 13:11 | Report abuse |
    • shannon ray blake

      mds is simmiliar the abnormal tissue growth of cancer.i mean hemigobin of blood cell is munipulated and deformed by pathogens.the white t cells have been attacked ,and the host white t cell deforms into abnormal tissue growth.the host blood cells and white t cell of your inner immunity system have deformed growth by the advavance of the pathogens with cause mds...shannon ray blake...

      July 19, 2012 at 18:47 | Report abuse |
  7. Sue Wilder

    `Robin thank you for sharing this sad news with your fans. We love you and know you will get through this very well! God Bless you and your wonderful sister!

    June 11, 2012 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Denise Kear

    Dear Robin we do love you and wish you the best. I too am a Breast cancer survivor and I have no idea what the future holds for me after this...I take it day by day...You are a very strong woman and you inspire alot of people....I wish for you the best and please recover as soon as you can...praying for you!!!

    June 11, 2012 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Tracey

    I would like to thank you Robin Roberts for sharing this just as I finished putting on my makeup this morning... big smears from tears. What an inspiration! I know she will beat this too. We'll all be praying for you and your family. Stay strong and keep fighting.

    June 11, 2012 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Monica

    You will recover from this setback.Prayers,faith and a strong family will see you through.Plus, all of us who watch you every day on GMA are praying for a fast recovery.

    June 11, 2012 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mery

      I'm glad others have ncotied this trend!! I was riding my bike the other day and it seemed there was a chipmunk every 2 or 3 feet!! I've never seen so many!!! and a coworker mentioned seeing many the other day .Interesting!

      July 3, 2012 at 03:29 | Report abuse |
  11. Kathy

    It is possible that the treatment Robin received for breast cancer led to this problem. If you are interested in a new, and very different, idea concerning the origin of cancer and its treatment please visit newalternativecancertherapy.com. Thank you.

    June 11, 2012 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • shannon ray blake

      in the arteries,capularies,and veins microscopic pathogens invade blood cells and white t cells by sexual multiplied host cell implantation of off spring.the way to stop these pathogens is to make their food source impossible to spawn their offspring which causes the abnormal tissue growth.to destrory the pathogens offspring,find endorphines and hormones which prevent blood cells and white t cells growth of these off spring of the parent pathogens!shannon..................

      July 26, 2012 at 22:52 | Report abuse |
  12. TH

    Good Luck to Robin ... she's a wonderful woman and a lot of people are pulling for her.

    June 11, 2012 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation

    We are here for Robin and all MDS patients and families as they face the challenges of dealing with a rare bone marrow failure disease. Visit our Web site to learn more about the resources and support available. http://www.aamds.org.

    June 11, 2012 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Estela

    Robin, my prayers and thoughts are with you...You have such a strong faith that can move mountains and I know that this MDS will be a no match for you & our GOD.... May our Heavenly Father Bless you and your family through this tough moments.... We love you

    June 11, 2012 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. karen egan

    Robin – You come across as a friend to all of us who watch you daily, so please know that we wish you a complete recovery.

    June 11, 2012 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Carl Joseph

    You are in my prayers, Robin. God is great. Keep faith. Love you. God Bless!!!!

    June 11, 2012 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. susan loewenstein

    dear robin, you are a very special person. you need to remember that god only give you what you can handle! i think you are the torch people pass in the olympic games, bright and glowing and never burns out! god has given you a journey so the weak can gain strength from your will to fight and overcome. god will be good to you robin. i will continue praying daily for you!!!!!! you will be victorious. god bless love susan

    June 11, 2012 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Marielaina Perrone DDS

    My prayers are with Robin and her family.


    June 11, 2012 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kemal

      , Don't let the actions of one man ruin you for the rest of your life. And I didn't. I am lucky.I've got a great hubsand, 4 kids and an awesome sex life!! Reply:August 2nd, 2009 at 12:18 pm, Good for you, babe. I'm still working on the sex life part myself. Heh.

      August 1, 2012 at 21:20 | Report abuse |
  19. Lorraine Bradshaw

    Robin, I will be praying for you and your family, I was moved with tears when i heard your announcement. God Bless. Love Lorraine

    June 11, 2012 at 21:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. john

    hi i wish good luck i will pray for you because i know about cancer i had radiation and chimo therapy thice

    with faith you can hack it i did so you can do it bye bye

    June 11, 2012 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. weezer

    Thoughts and prayers, Robin!

    June 12, 2012 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Colleen Miller

    Robin, I watched you battle before and I know your a very strong woman. I was diagnosed with Systemic Mastocytosis some 3 years ago, no cure, progressive and QOL some days good, some days life threatening. I am so glad you have such a wonderful family and an amazing sister ..I will add you and you family to my prayers. Stay well ..HUGS!

    June 12, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Donna Sullivan

    Robin my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family, you have gone through one battle and won, you will win this one too. You have an amazing sister, and family that are there to support you. Please keep your chin up and stay positive!!

    June 12, 2012 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Aquarian

    Robin, may the good Lord be with you as you walk this journey. Best of luck with your treatments. You are surrounded by great collegues and family who love and support you. Keep smiling that great smile.

    June 12, 2012 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Spiff

    "Unfortunately there is no known cure for MDS."

    Um, yes there is - and it's mentioned prominently in your story!

    It's called a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, mentioned in the second-to-last paragraph.

    Shoddy reporting.

    June 12, 2012 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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    God bless you Robin!! We are all praying for a speedy recovery!

    June 13, 2012 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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    I miss seeing you on good morning america! I am praying for you! Be strong in the Lord.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. sangeez2005

    Robin I am so glad you shared your story. I was diagnosed with polycythemia vera . It also is very rare blood disease, And after you shared your story It gave me strenght TO go get MY BONE marrow bioxopsy I have cancelled APPT 4 times and after seeing how brave you aré .you aré MY hero. MY bioxopsy I am having tomorrow. So thank-you Robin GOD BLESS you , I will pray for you everyday , I wish you the strenght @ hope @ support. TAKE care OF yourself xoxoxoxo

    June 27, 2012 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. gerard

    Roberts wrote in a statement that she will undergo chemotherapy ahead of a bone marrow transplant later this year. Her sister, who is a match, is donating the bone marrow.

    Is she having bone marrow, or stem cell. They are similar, but stem cell transplant is a different procedure.

    June 29, 2012 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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  41. Heather

    My husband also has Aplastic Anemia and is being treated through MD Anderson in Houston, TX. We found out in February 2012 and it's been a long road for us and our 7 year old. They did the ATG treatment along with Steroids and Cyclosporine and he was responding but in the last couple of months has stopped. He gets transfusions every week. He is on a new medication called Eltrombopag that is just out for AA patients and he and his Doctor had to enroll in the program for him to take it. They want him to try it for the next 8 to 10 weeks as a last ditch effort before having a transplant. We are meeting with the transplant team next week to get that process started and see which one of his sliblings will (hopefully) be a match but we are hopful that the new medication will work. I had never heard of this disease before and you don't find to many people who have it or have had it. My family will be praying for you that your transplant goes well and that you life can go back to normal. I know this is not easy. God bless you!

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