What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a disease that affects the body's white blood cells. When a person is diagnosed with leukemia, it means that his or her bone marrow is producing abnormal white blood cells.

These abnormal cells, called leukemia cells, don't function the way they are supposed to, and they don't die when they are supposed to. As a consequence, they build up in a patient's bloodstream and leave increasingly little room for healthy blood cells to do the work they need to do in order to keep the patient alive and healthy.

Call

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 47,000 new cases of leukemia are diagnosed in the United States each year, and approximately 23,500 people die from the disease annually.

Types of Leukemia

There are four primary types of leukemia. Each one is named according to two factors: the speed at which the disease develops and the type of white blood cell that is cancerous.

  • When referring to the speed of the development of the disease, the term chronic is used for slowly-developing leukemias, and acute is used for rapidly-developing leukemias.
  • When referring to the blood cell, a leukemia is either lymphocytic (affecting lymphoid cells; similar terms include lymphoid and lymphoblastic) or myeloid (affecting myeloid cells; similar terms include myelogenous and myeloblastic).

The four major types of leukemia:

  1. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). This disease mainly affects adults and accounts for about 15,000 new cases each year.
  2. Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). This disease also mainly affects adults and accounts for just under 6,000 new cases each year.
  3. Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). This disease, which accounts for about 5,000 new cases annually, can affect adults but it more commonly affects children and is the most common subtype of leukemia among children.
  4. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). About 13,000 cases of this disease are diagnosed annually, and is diagnosed in both children and adults.

If you do the basic math, you find that these four leukemia subtypes fall below the 47,000 annual number of diagnoses. The remainder are considered extremely rare leukemia subtypes, such as hairy cell leukemia.

Advances in Leukemia Research

Recent advances in leukemia research include:

  • In 2011, a paper was published detailing how a CLL patient was treated through the modification of his T-cells to express a specific protein, which caused his immune system to attack the leukemia cells.
  • In 2012, researchers identified several genetic alterations that may predict a leukemia patient's prognosis and the likelihood that they will respond to specific treatments.
  • Also in 2012, researchers reported on the results of whole-genome sequencing from patients whose myelodysplastic syndrome had progressed to AML, offering clues to the genetic evolution of the disease.

Source: The National Cancer Institute

Call

More Articles

More Articles

This entry looks at Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma in the lungs, clinically known as pulmonary lymphoma, one of the subtypes of lymphoma. 'Lymphoma' is an...

In order to prevent developing any subtype of lymphoma, it would be helpful to know the causes of lymphoma. Unfortunately, in virtually every case...

BEAM chemotherapy is an acronym representing a small family of combination chemotherapy regimens that are used chiefly as salvage regimens in the...

There are two types of cancer: benign and malignant. Benign cancers are the kind that don't spread and don't threaten one's life. Malignant...

The Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR - sometimes called sed rate or sedimentation rate) is a nonspecific screening test for various...

Blood counts can be used to identify disease and monitor patient health during cancer treatments. Though these tests cannot diagnose lymphoma on...

MALT lymphoma is a rare B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that typically runs an indolent or slow-growing clinical...

Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is just one of 50-60 known B-cell subtypes of...

After some of the dust has settled, the thoughts of many new lymphoma patients turn to diet and nutrition. They want to know if, in the past,...

According to a study by Japanese researchers, the SMILE combination chemotherapy protocol is effective against extranodal natural killer/T-cell...

In a perfect world, every case of cancer would respond to, and be cured by first-line therapy. Unfortunately, it is not often the case. This is...

Patients treated with maintenance rituximab had three times longer progression-free survival. This is a summary of an article published in the...

Prednisone is a glucocorticosteroid (a steroid) used in the treatment of many types of cancers. It functions as an anti-inflammatory medicine that...

In 1964, researchers at the National Cancer Institute developed the first combination chemotherapy that cured a...

Since so many chemotherapy agents can affect a patient’s sex drive and fertility, thinking about these issues prior...