What is Leukemia and what causes it? (Definition)

Leukemia is a group of cancers that usually begin in the bone marrow and result in having high numbers of abnormal white blood cells. These white blood cells called blasts or leukemia cells, are not fully developed and don’t work the way they should. Eventually, they crowd out the healthy blood cells in the bone marrow. White blood cells are infection fighters which normally grow and divide as your body needs them. The rate at which leukemia progresses and how the cells replace the normal blood and marrow cells are different with each type of leukemia.

Different types of leukemia depend on the type of blood cell that becomes cancer. The treatment and prognosis for leukemia depend on the type of blood cell affected and whether the leukemia is acute or chronic. Acute leukemia is a fast-growing cancer that usually gets worse quickly. Chronic leukemia is a slower-growing cancer that gets worse slowly over time.

There are four main types of leukemia:

Leukemia occurs most often in adults older than 55 years, but it is also the most common cancer in children younger than 15 years. The exact cause of leukemia remains unknown, however medical research scientists are making significant progress towards understanding and fighting this disease.

Different kinds of leukemia are believed to have different causes. Both inherited and environmental (non-inherited) factors are believed to be involved.

Leukemia Symptoms

Leukemia symptoms vary, depending on the type of leukemia. Common leukemia signs and symptoms might include persistent fatigue or weakness, fever, chills, frequent infections, unexpected weight loss, easily bruising and bleeding including recurrent nose bleeds, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen, night sweating, tenderness or pain in the bones, and tiny red spots in the skin (petechiae). Diagnosis is typically made by blood tests or bone marrow biopsy.

For more information on Leukemia, including recommended treatments, please visit Mayoclinic.org.

See below for updated news and information regarding Leukemia including new medical research, treatment options and advancements. 

Latest Leukemia News

Leukemia Diagnosis Research News: Advances prompt release of new recommendations for diagnosis, management of adult AML

(SOURCE: OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY WEXNER MEDICAL CENTER) - An international panel of experts has released updated evidence-based and expert-opinion-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in adults. The recommendations were issued by the European LeukemiaNet (ELN) and published in the journal Blood. The paper’s senior author was Clara D. Bloomfield, MD, Distinguished University Professor, Ohio State University ...
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Leukemia Treatment Research News: Research leads to new treatment recommendations for a high-risk pediatric leukemia

(SOURCE: ST. JUDE CHILDREN'S RESEARCH HOSPITAL) - International researchers led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have identified genetic alterations that can be used to guide treatment of pediatric acute megakaryoblastic leukemia, which has a dismal prognosis. Research led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has identified three genetic alterations to help identify high-risk pediatric patients with acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL) who ...
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Leukemia Lymphoma Treatment Research Shows Promise: New drug cocktail unlocks potential of new Leukaemia treatment

(SOURCE: UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER) - A new combination of drugs, tested by University of Manchester scientists, has significantly enhanced the survival of laboratory mice with lymphoma. According to the team, the effect of Obinutuzumab - a first-line treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukaemia - is significantly enhanced when combined with drugs that stimulate the immune system. The research is published in ...
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Acute Myeloid Leukaemia Treatment News: Researchers from Goethe University discover a new clinical biomarker to improve treatment of leukemia

(SOURCE: GOETHE UNIVERSITY FRANKFURT) - Because it is impossible to predict which acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) patients will benefit, all patients are routinely treated with chemotherapy although only some will respond to the treatment. Researchers from Goethe-University Frankfurt have now discovered a novel biomarker that enables the detection of therapy responders and non-responders with high accuracy. In addition, their research reveals new ...
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Mixed Lineage Leukemia Research: Halting Lethal Childhood Leukemia

(SOURCE: NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY) - Scientists identify molecular therapy to prevent growth of pediatric leukemia. Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered the genetic driver of a rare and lethal childhood leukemia and identified a targeted molecular therapy that halts the proliferation of leukemic cells. The finding also has implications for treating other types of cancer. Mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) primarily strikes newborns and infants ...
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Myelodysplastic Syndrome Treatment Research: Possible Treatment Targets Found for Pre-Malignant Bone Marrow Disorders

(SOURCE: CINCINNATI CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER) - Cincinnati Children’s researchers report in Nature Immunology a new mechanism that controls blood cell function and several possible molecular targets for treating myelodysplasia syndromes (MDS) – a group of pre-malignant disorders in which bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. MDS can lead to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a fast-spreading blood cancer that ...
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Leukemia Research News – Obesity-Associated Protein Could Be Linked to Leukemia Development

(SOURCE: UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI ACADEMIC HEALTH CENTER) - Cancer researchers at the University of Cincinnati have found an obesity-associated protein’s role in leukemia development and drug response which could lead to more effective therapies for the illness. The study, published in the Dec. 22 online edition of Cancer Cell and led by Jianjun Chen, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Cancer ...
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Leukemia Research News: Fasting kills cancer cells of most common type of childhood leukemia

(SOURCE: UT SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER) - UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found that intermittent fasting inhibits the development and progression of the most common type of childhood leukemia. This strategy was not effective, however, in another type of blood cancer that commonly strikes adults. “This study using mouse models indicates that the effects of fasting on blood cancers are type-dependent and provides ...
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(SOURCE: KU LEUVEN) - Twenty to forty percent of the patients with the type of leukaemia known as multiple myeloma have a defect in the 'protein factory' of the cell: the ribosome. These patients have a poorer prognosis than patients with intact ribosomes. At the same time, they respond better to a drug that already exists. These are the findings of a study by the ...
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Leukemia Research News: The quest to better understand the deadliest childhood leukemia

(SOURCE: FRED HUTCHINSON CANCER RESEARCH CENTER) - Oncologists are beginning to leverage unique genomic characteristics of pediatric AML to improve treatment and prognosis. By Sabrina Richards / Fred Hutch News Service Acute myeloid leukemia is the deadliest leukemia among children. Only half of patients will achieve long-term remission. But scientists see change on the horizon. Taking advantage of today’s genomic sequencing technologies, researchers ...
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