The Blood Cancer

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is the unnatural growth of white blood cells that can either be Acute or Chronic in their progression.


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Leukemia: What is leukemia? | Norton Cancer Institute

What are the symptoms of Leukemia?

Symptoms caused by Leukemia can range from minor things like red spots under the skin to more serious symptoms like having a low red blood cell count.

  • Leukopenia-low amount of white blood cells
  • Weakens the immune system

  • Thrombocytopenia- less blood cells that help with blood clotting
  • Can lead to easily bleeding

  • Swollen Lymph nodes-Leukemia reaches lymph nodes and causes swelling in certain areas

  • Enlarged Liver/Spleen-build-up in liver/spleen cause loos of appetite
  • Upper left side of abdomen can swell from build-up in liver/spleen

How prevalent is Leukemia?

Many people in the U.S. get Leukemia and any age, race, or ethnicity can contract it.

  • 47,666 adults
  • 4103 children
  • AML and CLL common in adults
  • ALL common in children

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What are the possible causes of Leukemia?

Leukemia is usually caused when the blood cells in our bone marrow begin to grow more rapidly than other cells.

  • Rapid growth of a cell

  • Occurs in bone marrow

  • Associated with red and white blood cells

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What happens at the molecular level in Leukemia?

Different mutations that occur in the bone marrow cells cause reactions that lead to the stages of contracting Leukemia.

  • Events first caused by chromosome breakages

  • Mutations create stages of the cancer

  • Myelodysplastic syndrome = acute leukemia = blastic crisis

  • Secondary mutations occur in specific genes that are involved with signaling pathways

  • 2 sets of mutations = marrow stem cells fail to produce mature blood cells

  • Primitive “blast” cells are produced instead

How is Leukemia diagnosed?

There are multiple different kinds of diagnostics that can be used for Leukemia like biopsy and lab tests that contain blood counts.

  • Biopsy-Sample tissues removed to see if cancerous.

  • Lumbar puncture-needle is inserted to drain body fluid that is used to see the extent of Leukemia.

  • Cytometry-test that tries to find any unnatural statistics in DNA and the rate the cancer cells are growing.

  • Lab tests-multiple blood tests that determine the state leukemia is in or the symptoms the patient has.

Lumbar puncture seen in bottom picture

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What are the treatments for Leukemia?

There are multiple different treatments available for Leukemia from being injected with genetically immune T cells to being given a drug called Glivec.

  • Genetically engineered immune T cells attack the Leukemia cancer

  • Glivec blocks the signaling of Bcer-Abl, a protein that causes white blood cells to grow uncontrollably.