CHIP (clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential) is a mutation that occurs in stem cells that turn into blood cells. This mutation is copied into more and more new blood cells. When these mutations are associated with a decrease in one of your blood counts, it is called clonal cytopenia of undetermined significance (CCUS).
Also called ARCH (age-related clonal hematopoiesis), CHIP mutations can appear before you develop blood cancers like acute myeloid leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Not all CHIP mutations will lead to blood cancer, but some can lead to an increased risk. Some of these blood mutations may also have other health consequences like increasing your risk for heart disease or heart attack.
CHIP mutations are somatic, meaning they cannot be inherited. Instead, they develop in your body over time. About 20% of patients over age 70 will have a mutation in a blood-production stem cell, and the risk increases with age. We are still learning about the role of each individual mutation — there is new information every day.
The Sylvester Pre-Blood Cancer Clinic is dedicated to helping high-risk patients who have a mutation more likely to progress or a high frequency of a mutation. Even though there’s no specific chemotherapy or drug to treat CHIP, our hematologic oncologists monitor your blood and lab tests so we can treat any related conditions at their earliest. We also provide information on other ways you can improve your health to minimize long-term consequences. For example, as a multidisciplinary clinic, we can also connect you with cardiologists who can recommend interventions and medications to lessen the threat of heart disease.
Usually, people discover they have a mutation when being evaluated for another condition. These mutations are not detected on a routine CBC (routine blood test by primary care physicians). But sometimes, if you have anemia or another problem, your doctor may order a special gene sequencing test. Some home DNA tests may also pick up these mutations. If you have a CHIP mutation, our clinic can help you understand how it may affect your current and future health. We can schedule a specific kind of genetic testing called next-generation DNA sequencing if you need it. If you already know your genetic results, we’ll discuss your potential risks and chances of developing blood cancer.
We will also have clinical trials to try and eliminate the abnormal blood populations if you would like to participate in CHIP research in the near future.
Do you have a patient over age 60 with decreased hemoglobin, a low platelet count, or elevated mean corpuscular volume (MCV) that can’t be explained by current chemotherapy, radiation, or other health conditions? Have you identified a CHIP mutation via genetic testing?
If yes, please refer them to our clinic for a comprehensive evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does a CHIP mutation mean you have (or will have) blood cancer?
No, a CHIP mutation doesn’t mean you currently have blood cancer — or that you ever will. Only about 4% of patients with CHIP eventually receive a cancer diagnosis. The type of mutation and how common the mutation is may be important. Your risk increases as more of your blood cells develop due to the mutation. Over time, we can track your progression to catch any changes early.
What is the link between CHIP and heart disease?
A CHIP mutation contributes to the inflammation and artery-clogging plaque that increases your risk for heart disease and heart attack. Our clinic connects you with a cardiologist who can monitor your condition and help control your risk factors through medical interventions or lifestyle modifications.
Is there a connection between CHIP and other diseases?
While the relationship with heart disease is best established, we are continually learning about the relationship between CHIP mutations and other diseases.
How is CHIP diagnosed?
There’s no routine clinical screening test for CHIP. Most cases are unintentionally identified through genetic testing for other cancers. For example, a CHIP mutation could appear on a genetic test intended to detect breast cancer-associated mutations. You’ll be diagnosed with CHIP if at least 2% of your blood cells carry the mutation.
What are the risk factors for CHIP?
There’s no specific cause for CHIP. It’s more common in older patients, affecting roughly 10% of patients over age 70. Additional risk factors include:
- Being male
- Being white
What are the symptoms of CHIP?
CHIP doesn’t cause symptoms. You may have abnormally shaped blood cells or a low blood count, but most patients don’t experience any other signs.
Why Choose Sylvester Cancer Center?
We are one of five Cancer Centers of Excellence in Florida and the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in South Florida, meaning we are recognized for our leading-edge cancer treatments. Our doctors are sub-specialists who have focused knowledge in your disease area. By offering approximately 300 clinical trials for patients, we are also at the forefront of this constantly evolving disease area.
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