Clinical Trials

Hematology oncology

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on April 29, 2022.

What is hematology oncology?

Hematology oncology combines two fields of medicine: hematology, which is the study of the blood, and oncology, the study and treatment of cancer.

Hematologic oncologists are trained in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of blood cancers and blood-related disorders. The hematologic oncologists at City of Hope have access to a wide range of diagnostic tools, such as imaging and laboratory tests, and provide sophisticated therapies for patients with cancerous hematologic diseases, including:

Hematologic malignancies differ from other types of cancer because they develop in the body's blood cells and may not form tumors. While some hematologic oncologists have expertise in treating solid tumors, most do not treat operable cancers such as breast cancer or lung cancer.

Stem cell transplantation, a treatment option for some blood cancers, is performed at City of Hope by hematology/oncology physicians. Stem cell transplantation is also called hematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is now City of Hope®, joining forces to expand patient access to personalized, comprehensive cancer care.

Why would a patient see a hematologic oncologist?

Patients may be referred to a hematologic oncologist if some abnormality shows up in a blood test. The blood is made up of white blood cells that fight infection, red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the heart and other organs, platelets that clot blood and prevent uncontrolled bleeding, and plasma that carries waste products to the kidneys and liver.

A blood test may indicate too many or too few of any of these blood components, which a hematologic oncologist may investigate for signs of blood cancer or other blood disorders. Multiple myeloma, for instance, may occur in the plasma in bone marrow, while Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma develop in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

How do hematologic oncologists treat blood cancers?

Treatment for blood cancer depends on many factors, including the type of cancer the patient has, how old he or she is, how fast the cancer is progressing and where the cancer may have spread.

Blood cancer patients at City of Hope are treated by a multidisciplinary care team working to eliminate the hematologic malignancies and reduce the possibility of a relapse. The team may also offer supportive care to keep the patient strong, reduce side effects of treatment and maintain quality of life.

Working with the rest of the cancer care team, the hematologic oncologist will develop a comprehensive treatment plan that may include the therapies listed below.

To help reduce or prevent the side effects of treatment and speed recovery , the City of Hope cancer care team may recommend a range of supportive care services, such as nutritional and/or naturopathic support, pain management, psychosocial counseling and physical therapy.

What are the procedures for stem cell transplants?

Advances in stem cell research have led to fewer complications and greater benefits for patients. Healthy stem cells are collected from bone marrow, circulating (peripheral) blood or umbilical cord blood. These blood-forming stem cells are then infused intravenously into the body to replace diseased or damaged bone marrow. The type of stem cell transplantation is based on where the healthy stem cells are harvested:

The goal of transplantation is to stimulate new bone marrow growth, suppress the disease and reduce the possibility of relapse.

Patients undergo a conditioning regimen prior to transplantation. This regimen aims to kill as many cancer cells as possible, often through high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Following transplantation, the care team will continue to monitor the patient's blood counts over several months, and may prescribe transfusions of red blood cells and platelets as needed.

To reduce the risk of complications and side effects, the stem cell transplant teams at City of Hope hospitals, located across the United States, work with patients to address their needs throughout the stem cell transplant process.

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