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What Is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a group of cancers of the blood and blood-forming tissues of the body. The disease typically begins in the bone marrow, which is the spongy material found inside of large bones. Bone marrow produces white blood cells to prevent infection, platelets to help blood clot, and red blood cells to carry oxygen and other materials throughout the body.

When someone has leukemia, their bone marrow rapidly produces abnormal cells — typically white blood cells (also called leukocytes) – that do not function properly. These abnormal cells often move into the bloodstream, where they can then spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen and central nervous system.

The leukemia team at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center treats patients with expert clinical care and leading-edge treatments. From diagnosis and treatment – including stem cell transplant if necessary – through survivorship and beyond, our compassionate clinical team supports patients every step of the way in their care journey.

Your health is important. Get expert care.

Offering in-person, video and telephone visits. Call 216-844-3951 today to see which option is right for you.

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Why Choose UH Seidman Cancer Center for Leukemia Treatment?

  • UH Seidman Cancer Center is one of the best cancer hospitals in the country according to U.S. News & World Report for over 20 years.
  • UH Seidman Cancer Center was one of the first hospitals in the U.S. to offer bone marrow transplants, performing its first transplant in 1976.
  • Our Stem Cell Transplant Program has offered advanced bone marrow and cord blood transplant services for more than 45 years. Since the program’s inception, we’ve performed over 3,500 stem cell transplants.
  • UH Seidman Cancer Center is part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of 54 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country. The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center has an “Exceptional” rating from the NCI, a distinction currently held by only seven NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers.
  • UH Seidman Cancer Center has a 30-bed inpatient unit specializing in the treatment of leukemia and other hematologic malignancies.

How Is Leukemia Classified?

There are many types of leukemia. One way in which leukemias are classified is by the two types of blood cells most affected: lymphocytes and myeloid cells.

  1. Lymphocytic or lymphoid leukemias: Also known as lymphoid or lymphoblastic leukemias, these cancers affect the lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that develops in the bone marrow. Specific types of lymphocytic leukemias include:
    • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): ALL is the most common type of childhood cancer.
    • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): CLL is the most common form of leukemia in adults. Because CLL it is a cancer of B-cell lymphocytes, the World Health Organization classifies CLL as a subtype of lymphoma.
  2. Myeloid leukemias: Also called myelocytic, myelogenous or non-lymphocytic leukemias, these cancers begin in early myeloid cells, which are cells that mature into certain types white blood cells (other than lymphocytes), red blood cells and platelet-making cells (megakaryocytes). Specific types of myeloid leukemia and related cancers include:

In addition to the type of affected blood cells, leukemia is classified according to the disease’s rate of progression. Specifically, leukemias are often classified as “acute” or “chronic”:

  • Acute leukemias progress rapidly and causes immature, functionless blood cells to reproduce and accumulate in the bone marrow, decreasing the marrow’s ability to produce healthy blood cells.
  • Chronic leukemias grow slowly and causes the accumulation of more mature-looking cancer cells.

Patients with chronic leukemia do not experience the same symptoms as patients with acute leukemia, and treatment for the two types differs. Both types of leukemia can spread to other parts of the body and be life-threatening if left untreated.

Types of Leukemia

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
    • B-lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma
    • T-lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs)
  • Mastocytosis
  • Myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasms
    • Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia
    • Atypical chronic myeloid leukemia
    • Myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasm with thrombocytosis
    • Premalignant clonal cytopenias and myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm
  • Acute leukemia of ambiguous lineage
    • Mixed phenotype acute leukemia (MPAL)
    • Undifferentiated Leukemia

Clinical Trials Available for Leukemia Patients

Access to innovative treatments, including leukemia-specific clinical trials with targeted agents, gives patients more treatment options. We offer new therapies that are safer, more tolerable and more targeted to leukemia cells to minimize side effects. Our physicians are the principal investigators for many of these cancer clinical trials, offering hope to both newly diagnosed leukemia patients and those who have relapsed.

Clinical Trials for Leukemia

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Make a gift today to support leukemia research and patient care at UH Seidman Cancer Center.

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