Leukemias are cancers of the cells that make up blood, bone marrow, and the lymphatic system. Leukemias usually affect the white blood cells that make up the immune system, but red blood cells and platelet-producing cells may also be affected. All leukemias eventually cause a decline in the body’s ability to protect itself from infection. Over time, abnormal cancer cells will crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow, leading to fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, causing the signs and symptoms of leukemia. There are several types of leukemia and they are classified based on the speed of disease progression and the type of cells involved.

  • Acute leukemias are aggressive cancers that progress rapidly. They develop from the accumulation of abnormal, immature blood cells (blasts). Acute leukemias usually require intensive treatment.
  • Chronic leukemias initially do not produce symptoms and may go undiagnosed for many years. They develop from more mature blood cells that accumulate slowly. Chronic leukemias vary in how quickly they progress from one patient to another. Many patients will not need treatment for chronic leukemias and will live for years with the disease. Other patients have a worse prognosis at diagnosis and require timely treatment.
  • Lymphocytic leukemia is a type of leukemia caused by the abnormal accumulation of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are cells that make up your immune system and include natural killer (NK) cells, B cells, and T cells.
  • Myeloid leukemia affects cells derived from myeloid stem cells. Myeloid cells give rise to red blood cells, platelet-producing cells, and some white blood cells such as granulocytes and monocytes. Myeloid leukemias may also be called myelogenous leukemias.

There are several major types of leukemia. Our CATALYST program is an online tool that aims to provide clinicians and patients with up-to-date information on two of the most common forms of leukemia in adults: acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). These two cancers differ considerably in presentation, prognosis, and treatment. The development of new targeted therapies and the identification of genetic risk factors has revolutionized the care of patients with AML and CLL, leading to better control of disease progression and greater improvements in patients’ quality of life. Our goal is to provide information that empowers clinicians and patients to speak openly about treatment decisions and improve the standard of care for patients with leukemia.

Thank you for visiting our website. Please explore the Clinician Toolkit and Patient Toolkit links for cutting-edge information on current and emerging treatments for AML and CLL.

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