Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia


Blood smear of CLL patient. Note the advanced stage of the disease; a high proportion of the blood cells are infected B-cell lymphocytes.
Blood smear of CLL patient. Note the advanced stage of the disease; a high proportion of the blood cells are infected B-cell lymphocytes.


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a low-intensity disease: CLL tumors can lie dormant in the bone marrow for years, only producing abnormal lymphocytes at certain times. Chemotherapy is the only option for CLL , because CLL is systemic and can spread throughout the body via the lymphatic system extremely quickly.
CLL is currently incurable with today's technology. Treatment usually consists of a series of mild chemotherapic drugs administered at certain intervals (usually monthly) to keep the disease at bay and prevent its spread. In addition, corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory drugs) are usually administered in small doses via injection to prevent excessive cell division. Treatment for CLL is mild, and usually comes with minimal negative side effects.

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia


AML is a very severe form of leukemia, necessitating the use of widespread chemotherapy using various chemicals and drugs.
AML is a very severe form of leukemia, necessitating the use of widespread chemotherapy using various chemicals and drugs.

AML is the most severe form of leukemia that affects adults in the United States. AML tumors metastasize extremely rapidly, and thus usually require rapid and intensive chemotherapic treatment. By the time AML is diagnosed - usually through blood tests - the disease has usually spread throughout the body. During chemotherapy, high doses of cytarabine and anthracycline (two powerful chemotherapy drugs) are used for the initial phase of treatment. The goal of the initial stage of treatment is to reduce the number of cancer cells in the body to an undetectable level. During the second phase of treatment, known as consolidation, patients will undergo an additional 3 - 5 sessions of chemotherapy in order to destroy most of the tumor cells located in the bone marrow, and thus prevent a relapse. AML requires treatment much more severe than treatment prescribed for other forms of adult leukemia.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia


Gleevec, a revolutionary cancer drug, on the cover of 2001 TIME Magazine
Gleevec, a revolutionary cancer drug, on the cover of 2001 TIME Magazine

A Gleevec tablet. Gleevec is an oral drug, with little or no side effects.
A Gleevec tablet. Gleevec is an oral drug, with little or no side effects.

CML, or chronic myelogenous leukemia, was previously only treatable with chemotherapy or a combination of various anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids - treatments that came with significant side effects. In 2001, the Food and Drug Administration approved Gleevec - an orally administered drug with minimal side effects that successfully killed CML tumor cells during clinical tests. Gleevec is now the preferred and most effective treatment of CML. 90% of CML patients can keep leukemia in remission for at least 5-10 years with Gleevec, changing CML from a fatal cancer into an annoying yet manageable disease. During independent studies, Gleevec regimens have demonstrated clear-cut superiority over the previous method of treatment, as well as a lower patient resistance rate and few side effects.