Call us 1-800-670-0715
Cancer Types

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Facts

What is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

What is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a cancer of the blood-producing cells in the spongy inner mass of the bone, known as marrow. CML is also called chronic granulocytic, chronic myelocytic or chronic myeloid leukemia.

Most people with CML have a genetic abnormality where two chromosomes (long strands of genes that dictate how the body behaves) swap their end pieces. This is called translocation, and in this case involves chromosomes number 9 and 22 and is named the "Philadelphia chromosome." The mutation causes bone marrow cells (called myeloid cells) to produce an enzyme that prompts white blood cells (cells that normally fight infection) to grow unchecked. These abnormal cells do not work well and over time; crowd out normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

CML is one of four types of leukemia. Like chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), CML progresses slowly at first, and people may have it for months or years before symptoms appear. CML and CLL differ in the type of white blood cells that become cancer, and CLL patients do not have the same genetic changes to their cells. Acute leukemia’s, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), progress more quickly.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 4,300 new cases of chronic myelogenous leukemia will be diagnosed this year in the United States. CML usually occurs in people in their 40s and beyond, although it can occur in younger patients.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Risk Factors

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
  • The patient’s age
  • The phase of CML
  • The amount of blasts in the blood or bone marrow
  • The size of the spleen at diagnosis
  • The patient’s general health

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, What to Look For

Possible signs of chronic myelogenous leukemia include tiredness, night sweats, and fever.

These and other symptoms may be caused by CML or by other conditions. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

  • Tiredness that does not go away
  • Lack of energy
  • Weight loss (unexplained)
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Pain or fullness below the ribs on the left side

Sometimes CML does not cause any symptoms at all.

Most people with CML have a gene mutation (change) called the Philadelphia chromosome. Every cell in the body contains DNA (genetic material) that determines how the cell looks and acts. DNA is contained inside chromosomes. In CML, part of the DNA from one chromosome moves to another chromosome. This change is called the “Philadelphia chromosome”. It results in the bone marrow making an enzyme, called tyrosine kinase, that causes too many stem cells to develop into white blood cells (granulocytes or blasts).

The Philadelphia chromosome results from a mutationcalled a translocation (two chromosomes break, then parts from each chromosome switch places). In CML, the translocation occurs between chromosomes 9 and 22 (human DNA is packaged in 23 pairs of chromosomes) and produces a new, abnormal gene called BCR-ABL. This abnormal gene produces Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase, an abnormal protein that causes the excess WBCs typical of CML.

The Philadelphia chromosome is an acquired mutation — that is, a person is not born with it and it is not passed on to their children. Exactly why the Philadelphia chromosome forms is unknown in most cases, although exposure to ionizing radiations (such as during the atomic bomb explosions in Japan) has been shown to cause CML.

The Philadelphia chromosome is not passed from parent to child.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Tests

Tests that examine the blood and bone marrow are used to detect (find) and diagnose chronic myelogenous leukemia.

 

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.

Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that produces it.

Complete blood count: A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for the following:

  • The number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets
  • The amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells
  • The portion of the blood sample made up of red blood cells

Peripheral blood smear: A procedure in which a sample of blood is checked for the presence of blast cells, number and kinds of white blood cells, the number of platelets, and changes in the shape of blood cells.

Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration: The removal of a small piece of bone and bone marrow by inserting a needle into the hipbone or breastbone. A pathologist views the samples under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.

Cytogenetic analysis: A test in which the cells in a sample of blood or bone marrow are looked at under a microscope to find out if there are certain changes in the chromosomes in the lymphocytes. For example, sometimes in ALL, part of one chromosome is moved to another chromosome. This is called the Philadelphia chromosome.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Stages

Staging is the process used to find out how far the cancer has spread. There is no standard staging system for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Instead, the disease is classified by phase:

  • Chronic Phase
  • Accelerated Phase
  • Blastic Phase

It is important to know the phase in order to plan treatment. The following tests and procedures may be used to find out the phase:

Cytogenetic analysis: A test in which cells in a sample of blood or bone marrow are viewed under a microscope to look for certain changes in the chromosomes, such as the Philadelphia chromosome.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: The removal of a small piece of bone and bone marrow by inserting a needle into the hipbone or breastbone. A pathologist views both the bone and bone marrow samples under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.

 

Chronic myelogenous leukemia has 3 phases

As the amount of blast cells increases in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may result in infections, anemia, and easy bleeding, as well as bone pain and pain or fullness below the ribs on the left side. The amount of blast cells in the blood and bone marrow and the severity of symptoms determine the phase of the disease.

Chronic phase: In chronic phase CML, there are 5% or fewer blast cells in the blood and bone marrow.

Accelerated phase: In accelerated phase CML, there are 6% to 30% blast cells in the blood and bone marrow.

Blastic phase: In blastic phase CML, there are 30% or more blast cells in the blood or bone marrow. When tiredness, fever, and an enlarged spleen occur during the blastic phase, it is called blast crisis.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment

Different types of treatment are available for patients with CML. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Before starting treatment, patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.

Six types of standard treatment are used:

– Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

– Other drug therapy

Imatinib (Gleevec) is a new type of cancer drug, called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It blocks the enzyme, tyrosine kinase, that causes stem cells to develop into more white blood cells (granulocytes or blasts) than the body needs.

– Biologic therapy

Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.

– High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplantation

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplantation is a method of giving high doses of chemotherapy and replacing blood-forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored. After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body’s blood cells.

– Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI)

Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI) is a cancer treatment that may be used after stem cell transplantation. Lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) from the stem cell transplant donor are removed from the donor’s blood and may be frozen for storage. The donor’s lymphocytes are thawed if they were frozen and then given to the patient through one or more infusions. The lymphocytes see the patient’s cancer cells as not belonging to the body and attack them.

– Surgery

Splenectomy is surgery to remove the spleen.

 

Chronic Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment of chronic phase chronic myelogenous leukemia may include the following:

  • High-dose chemotherapy with donor stem cell transplantation
  • Biologic therapy (interferon) with or without chemotherapy
  • Other drug therapy (Gleevec)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Splenectomy
  • A clinical trial of a new treatment

 

Accelerated Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment of accelerated phase chronic myelogenous leukemia may include the following:
  • Stem cell transplantation
  • Other drug therapy (Gleevec)
  • Biologic therapy (interferon) with or without chemotherapy
  • High-dose chemotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Transfusion therapy to replace red blood cells, platelets, and sometimes white blood cells, to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life
  • A clinical trial of a new treatment

 

Blastic Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment of blastic phase chronic myelogenous leukemia may include the following:
  • Other drug therapy (Gleevec)
  • Chemotherapy using one or more drugs
  • High-dose chemotherapy
  • Donor stem cell transplantation
  • Chemotherapy as palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life
  • A clinical trial of a new treatment

 

Relapsed Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment of relapsed chronic myelogenous leukemia may include the following:
  • Donor stem cell transplantation
  • Donor lymphocyte infusion
  • Biologic therapy (interferon)
  • A clinical trial of biologic therapy, combination chemotherapy, or other drug therapy (Gleevec)

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Risk Factors

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
  • The patient’s age
  • The phase of CML
  • The amount of blasts in the blood or bone marrow
  • The size of the spleen at diagnosis
  • The patient’s general health

What to Look for

Possible signs of chronic myelogenous leukemia include tiredness, night sweats, and fever.

These and other symptoms may be caused by CML or by other conditions. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

  • Tiredness that does not go away
  • Lack of energy
  • Weight loss (unexplained)
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Pain or fullness below the ribs on the left side

Sometimes CML does not cause any symptoms at all.

Most people with CML have a gene mutation (change) called the Philadelphia chromosome. Every cell in the body contains DNA (genetic material) that determines how the cell looks and acts. DNA is contained inside chromosomes. In CML, part of the DNA from one chromosome moves to another chromosome. This change is called the “Philadelphia chromosome”. It results in the bone marrow making an enzyme, called tyrosine kinase, that causes too many stem cells to develop into white blood cells (granulocytes or blasts).

The Philadelphia chromosome results from a mutationcalled a translocation (two chromosomes break, then parts from each chromosome switch places). In CML, the translocation occurs between chromosomes 9 and 22 (human DNA is packaged in 23 pairs of chromosomes) and produces a new, abnormal gene called BCR-ABL. This abnormal gene produces Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase, an abnormal protein that causes the excess WBCs typical of CML.

The Philadelphia chromosome is an acquired mutation — that is, a person is not born with it and it is not passed on to their children. Exactly why the Philadelphia chromosome forms is unknown in most cases, although exposure to ionizing radiations (such as during the atomic bomb explosions in Japan) has been shown to cause CML.

The Philadelphia chromosome is not passed from parent to child.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Tests

Tests that examine the blood and bone marrow are used to detect (find) and diagnose chronic myelogenous leukemia.

 

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.

Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that produces it.

Complete blood count: A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for the following:

  • The number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets
  • The amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells
  • The portion of the blood sample made up of red blood cells

Peripheral blood smear: A procedure in which a sample of blood is checked for the presence of blast cells, number and kinds of white blood cells, the number of platelets, and changes in the shape of blood cells.

Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration: The removal of a small piece of bone and bone marrow by inserting a needle into the hipbone or breastbone. A pathologist views the samples under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.

Cytogenetic analysis: A test in which the cells in a sample of blood or bone marrow are looked at under a microscope to find out if there are certain changes in the chromosomes in the lymphocytes. For example, sometimes in ALL, part of one chromosome is moved to another chromosome. This is called the Philadelphia chromosome.

Stages of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Staging is the process used to find out how far the cancer has spread. There is no standard staging system for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Instead, the disease is classified by phase:

  • Chronic Phase
  • Accelerated Phase
  • Blastic Phase

It is important to know the phase in order to plan treatment. The following tests and procedures may be used to find out the phase:

Cytogenetic analysis: A test in which cells in a sample of blood or bone marrow are viewed under a microscope to look for certain changes in the chromosomes, such as the Philadelphia chromosome.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: The removal of a small piece of bone and bone marrow by inserting a needle into the hipbone or breastbone. A pathologist views both the bone and bone marrow samples under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.

 

Chronic myelogenous leukemia has 3 phases

As the amount of blast cells increases in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may result in infections, anemia, and easy bleeding, as well as bone pain and pain or fullness below the ribs on the left side. The amount of blast cells in the blood and bone marrow and the severity of symptoms determine the phase of the disease.

Chronic phase: In chronic phase CML, there are 5% or fewer blast cells in the blood and bone marrow.

Accelerated phase: In accelerated phase CML, there are 6% to 30% blast cells in the blood and bone marrow.

Blastic phase: In blastic phase CML, there are 30% or more blast cells in the blood or bone marrow. When tiredness, fever, and an enlarged spleen occur during the blastic phase, it is called blast crisis.

Types of Treatment for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Different types of treatment are available for patients with CML. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Before starting treatment, patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.

Six types of standard treatment are used:

– Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

– Other drug therapy

Imatinib (Gleevec) is a new type of cancer drug, called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It blocks the enzyme, tyrosine kinase, that causes stem cells to develop into more white blood cells (granulocytes or blasts) than the body needs.

– Biologic therapy

Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.

– High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplantation

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplantation is a method of giving high doses of chemotherapy and replacing blood-forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored. After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body’s blood cells.

– Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI)

Donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI) is a cancer treatment that may be used after stem cell transplantation. Lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) from the stem cell transplant donor are removed from the donor’s blood and may be frozen for storage. The donor’s lymphocytes are thawed if they were frozen and then given to the patient through one or more infusions. The lymphocytes see the patient’s cancer cells as not belonging to the body and attack them.

– Surgery

Splenectomy is surgery to remove the spleen.

 

Chronic Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment of chronic phase chronic myelogenous leukemia may include the following:

  • High-dose chemotherapy with donor stem cell transplantation
  • Biologic therapy (interferon) with or without chemotherapy
  • Other drug therapy (Gleevec)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Splenectomy
  • A clinical trial of a new treatment

 

Accelerated Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment of accelerated phase chronic myelogenous leukemia may include the following:
  • Stem cell transplantation
  • Other drug therapy (Gleevec)
  • Biologic therapy (interferon) with or without chemotherapy
  • High-dose chemotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Transfusion therapy to replace red blood cells, platelets, and sometimes white blood cells, to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life
  • A clinical trial of a new treatment

 

Blastic Phase Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment of blastic phase chronic myelogenous leukemia may include the following:
  • Other drug therapy (Gleevec)
  • Chemotherapy using one or more drugs
  • High-dose chemotherapy
  • Donor stem cell transplantation
  • Chemotherapy as palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life
  • A clinical trial of a new treatment

 

Relapsed Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Treatment of relapsed chronic myelogenous leukemia may include the following:
  • Donor stem cell transplantation
  • Donor lymphocyte infusion
  • Biologic therapy (interferon)
  • A clinical trial of biologic therapy, combination chemotherapy, or other drug therapy (Gleevec)

Side Effects of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Have a question?

Can't find what you're looking for? Get in touch.


Testimonials

You came to mind today, as I am sure that was my sister speaking to me, so I am sending this acknowledgment in her response. In September, 2002,...

- Cindy Tyler

Read More »

What's involved in CAAT?

This is the place to start! There is a distinct difference between cancer prevention and treatment. Things that are beneficial to cancer prevention may actually fuel the growth of cancer. A.P. John, Sr., was ahead of his time when he documented this theory in his book. Learn More »