Hematology

The new cases of leukemia will be diagnose in the United States this year; with some 2,000 cases in New Jersey, according to the American Cancer Society. Although leukemias are thought to occur in childhood, they can actually present at any age in both children and adults. However, not all leukemias are create equal. There are four main types of leukemia. There are ‘acute’ versus ‘chronic’  and there are those that emerge from ‘myeloid’ versus ‘lymphoid’ cells.

Main types of leukemia

Types of leukemia considere acute (e.g. acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia) present suddenly with severe symptoms and are treat more aggressively, while chronic leukemias (e.g. chronic myeloid leukemia; chronic lymphocytic leukemia) develop more slowly and are easier to treat and manage. Other blood cancers in this spectrum include myeloproliferative neoplasms, myelodysplasia and systemic mastocytosis.

Our blood is compose of cells that fight infection (i.e., white blood cells); carry oxygen and allow us to clot and stop bleeding (platelets). Leukemia symptoms are therefore tied to irregularities that may develop in the cells of our blood. These may occur gradually in some who present with nosebleeds, bruising; fevers and/or recurrent infections. In others; these irregularities are identify through blood work and symptoms may occur more rapidly. In addition, lymphocytic leukemias may also present with enlargement of the spleen and/or lymph nodes. It is therefore important to be evaluate by a healthcare professional if presenting with symptoms that are unusual for you.

Part of curative treatment

There are highly effective treatments in leukemia with the best options being individualize to the exact disease subtype and the individual patient. Chemotherapy is often part of curative treatment for acute leukemias. However, some subtypes of acute leukemia (e.g., acute promyelocytic leukemia) are treat with highly target treatments including novel oral medications. For the treatment of chronic leukemias, there are a multitude of new and effective target treatments becoming available, whether monoclonal antibodies that target the surface of the leukemia cell or specialized inhibitors that target the DNA and RNA inside the cell.

In addition, there are some leukemia conditions that do not need immediate therapy and can be managed with a “watch and wait” approach for several years. Physician-scientists at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey are at the forefront of studying the causes of leukemia and developing new treatment options for blood cancers. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and a member of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium, our team works collaboratively with colleagues across the country to improve patient outcomes for leukemias and other forms of cancer.