The doctors, the nurses and the environment give me nothing but hope. Alex Tung, leukemia survivor
If you have been recently diagnosed with leukemia, talk to the specialists at City of Hope’s Gehr Family Center for Leukemia Research.
Our team is an integrated group of experts who will provide you the best possible care from the moment of diagnosis to active treatment to follow-up and survivorship. We will answer your questions, address your concerns and work with you and your loved ones to design and deliver a personalized treatment plan to fit your needs, goals and lifestyle.
Request a Consultation
If you have been diagnosed with leukemia or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, you may request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-4673 (HOPE). Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.
City of Hope has been named a best hospital for cancer by U.S. News & World Report for over a decade, and a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, the highest designation that recognizes our commitment to cancer treatment, research and education. As a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, our doctors also help develop and improve evidence-based leukemia treatment guidelines for patients throughout the country.
September 22, 2016
Leukemia is a disorder involving blood cells. Healthy cells form in the bone marrow and mature into red blood cells (to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues), white blood cells (to fight infections) and platelets (to stop bleeding).
In patients with leukemia, these cells do not mature as they should or they transform into irregular blood cells that do not function normally. As abnormal cells build up in the bone marrow and bloodstream, the patient may experience anemia, susceptibility to infections and bleeding that does not clot due to the lack of functional red blood cells, white blood cells and/or platelets.
On a general scale, leukemia is classified by the types of cells affected (myeloid or lymphoid) and whether it is fast- or slow-growing (acute or chronic). As such, the four major subtypes of leukemia are:
Factors that can elevate risk of leukemia include:
Common symptoms associated with leukemia include:
Although these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, you should check with a doctor – preferably a hematologist – to get a definitive diagnosis.
Sources: National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society
An accurate diagnosis is crucial to optimal treatment planning and outcomes. This is especially important for leukemia because this disease has numerous subtypes and factors that can determine specific courses of treatment.
At City of Hope, our team of experts can precisely diagnose leukemia, classify its subtype, identify its severity and find the best treatments to fight the disease.
Once you notice symptoms, or as part of a routine examination, your doctor may use the following tests to look for leukemia:
If cancer is found, additional tests are performed to determine the type and stage of disease. These tests include:
There are currently no screening guidelines for leukemia, since no screenings have been shown to lower risk of dying from leukemia for people of average risk. However, your physician may recommend more vigorous monitoring if you are at a high risk of developing this disease, due to:
We offer not just the best known therapies, but also the best therapy for a particular person. Joseph Alvarnas, M.D., associate clinical professor, Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation
Your cancer is every bit as unique as you are, and that is why treatment at City of Hope is focused around you and your loved ones.
This means our physicians will personally consult with you about your disease, treatment options and desired outcomes. We will also analyze your specific cancer for genetic and molecular markers that can guide us to more effective therapies. Afterward, our multidisciplinary team will work together to discuss, design and deliver an individual treatment plan to best meet those goals.
The innovative treatments we use to treat leukemia include drug therapy, radiation therapy and bone marrow/stem cell transplantation.
Drug therapy may be given to patients to fight leukemia cells throughout the body by killing them or stopping their growth and spread. These drugs include:
Drugs may also be prescribed to treat conditions related to leukemia or its treatments, such as low blood cell counts, nausea or pain.
The drug or drug combination used depends on the leukemia subtype, disease prognosis, previous treatments used, the patient’s health and overall treatment goals. This personalized medicine approach also evaluates the leukemia cells’ molecular and genetic makeup, which can help identify treatments that are more effective and with fewer side effects.
City of Hope has a wide portfolio of cancer-fighting drugs available in its on-site pharmacy, allowing our medical oncologists to plan and prescribe a drug regimen that can best fight leukemia while minimizing side effects.
In addition to standard drug treatments, patients may also be eligible for new, promising drugs through our clinical trials program.
Radiation therapy uses focused, high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells.
For leukemia, radiation is typically used in the following manner:
City of Hope is a leader in the use of radiation to treat cancers. Our advanced technologies and experienced staff can plan and deliver radiation precisely to the bone marrow, where leukemia originates, while sparing nearby organs and tissues. This results in fewer radiation-associated side effects while maintaining excellent clinical outcomes.
Stem cell transplantation allows doctors to deliver greater doses of radiation and drugs to fight leukemia. After the high-intensity treatments, patients are infused with blood stem cells that will grow and mature in the bone marrow, restoring their blood-forming functions.
Stem cell transplants may also fight cancer through its graft-versus-tumor effect, where the newly transplanted stem cells produce an immune reaction against remaining leukemia cells throughout the body.
The stem cells may come from another donor (allogeneic transplant) or the patient’s own cells (autologous transplant).
City of Hope is one of the world’s largest and most successful bone marrow and stem cell transplant centers. Our Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute is a leader in setting standards for this lifesaving procedure, improving outcomes for leukemia patients of all ages.
Highlights of our transplant program include:
For slower-growing, less aggressive leukemias, active surveillance — also known as watchful waiting — is a viable treatment option. This method involves closely monitoring a patient with regular checkups and blood work, and beginning therapy when the disease begins to show signs of progression. Active surveillance allow doctors to deliver treatment when it is the most effective, sparing patients from unnecessary therapies and side effects.
City of Hope’s renowned physicians and researchers in the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute utilize the latest in technology and innovation to treat leukemia, coupled with our enduring belief in providing unparalleled compassionate care. or contact us at 800-826-HOPE.
Anatomic and Clinical Pathology
At City of Hope, leukemia clinicians and researchers collaborate extensively to develop and evaluate new therapies for better survival and quality-of-life outcomes. Our patients have access to a wide variety of clinical trials including new chemotherapy and targeted therapies, hormone therapies with fewer side effects, novel surgical techniques, innovative radiation approaches and new prevention strategies.
These trials give current patients access to promising, leading-edge therapies and improve overall care for future patients worldwide. Visit our clinical trials page to learn more about current studies and their eligibility criteria.
Some of our current research projects include:
I am going to beat this. I’m going to come back and retrace these steps. Gus Perez, leukemia survivor
When you come to City of Hope, you automatically gain access to an unparalleled array of support services to help you and your loved ones take each step during and after your leukemia treatment.
We can help with all of the following concerns, and more:
For more information about the supportive care programs we offer, please contact the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at 626-218-2273 (CARE).
Aaron had just started kindergarten in 2012 when a rash appeared on both of his legs. What his doctor initially thought was strep throat or a common virus, was soon diagnosed as acute myeloid leukemia — the second-most common form of leukemia in children. Watch his inspiring story.
As the only child of a Chinese immigrant single parent, Alex survived a rare form of leukemia thanks to a stem cell transplant from umbilical cord blood.
A 6-year old boy is given the opportunity to meet the bone marrow donor who saved his life.
After two bone marrow transplants and tremendous perseverance, Nicole is back to living the life she once knew – and making up for lost time.
Stephen Bass, leukemia survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, talks about his experience and meeting his donor.
When Anya Shah was 8 years old she loved gymnastics and hoped to someday be president of the United States.
When he was first diagnosed with leukemia at age 9, Dominick just wanted to get well, so he could play sports again.
Ten-time Academy Award-winning writer and producer Steven Bochco is accustomed to creating compelling characters who face life full-bore, whatever the odds.