Hello, my name is Talya Laver and I am a freshman at Science Leadership Academy. In our English class we are working on a project entitled You and The World. This project gets us to think about an issue that is meaningful to us and what we could do to fix it. The issue that I chose was Leukemia. Leukemia, as well as Lymphoma, Myeloma and Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), are all blood cancers. I have chosen this topic because my aunt recently passed away after a three year battle with Leukemia. She was one of my inspirations and I was very struck by the way she faced her disease; with constant determination and positivity. I hope to educate people about what blood cancers actually are and help to raise money to find a cure.
Blood cancers are caused by changes in the DNA of one stem cell. That cell then multiplies and accumulates, interfering with the productiveness of the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. When your white blood cells are affected, you can no longer fight infection as well. These mutated cells affect bone marrow, blood cells, lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system. Leukemia, specifically, is caused by a change of the DNA in a white blood cell.
There are two categories in which a specific type of Leukemia can be sorted into; Acute Leukemia and Chronic Leukemia. Acute Leukemia progresses very quickly and is more common. Chronic Leukemia worsens slowly over time. Within those two categories there are two different types of Leukemia. The two types of Acute Leukemia are Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia starts in the white blood cells and affects the lymphocytes. Lymphocytes flow in the bloodstream to help fight infection. When they do not mature properly, they can no longer fight infection. Acute Myeloid Leukemia can start in many types of developing blood cells. It affects myeloid stem cells, which later mature into red blood cells, platelets or myeloblasts. Myeloblasts later turn into white blood cells. Acute Myeloid Leukemia prohibits the myeloid cells from maturing the way they should and myeloblasts do not go on to become white blood cells which help fight infection; leaving the carrier susceptible and unable to defend themselves. The two types of chronic leukemia are Chronic Myeloid Leukemia and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Chronic Myeloid Leukemia is very similar to Acute Myeloid Leukemia with the exception that the disease progress more slowly because in the beginning some of the blood cells mature and work properly. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia is identified by the presence of too many abnormal lymphocytes found in the bloodstream. These abnormal cells crowd around the healthy cells prohibiting the production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. All four of these types of leukemia will result in death if the proper treatment is not received.
This diagram shows the the breakdown of the different types of
Leukemia diagnosed in 2013 in both adults and children.
The best course of treatment for Leukemia depends upon many things: the type of Leukemia, the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed, the patients age, and the patients general health. The goal of the treatment is to target the Leukemia cells and kill them, allowing healthy cells to grow in their place. A patient is considered “in remission” when there are no longer any signs of Leukemia cells. Normally the first plan of attack for patients with Acute Leukemia is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy attacks the Leukemia with the use of drugs, which are normally received in stages. In the event that the cancer had spread to the brain or spinal cord, intrathecal chemotherapy attacks the cells in these areas by injecting the drugs directly into the spinal canal. Radiation can also be used to treat acute leukemia. Radiation therapy targets the cancer cells with large amounts of radiation, and can also be used to target Leukemia cells in the spinal cord or brain. For people that have high-risk Leukemia, doctors may suggest a stem cell transplant. Stem cell transplants destroy all of the cells in the bone marrow, both good and bad, and replaces them with new, healthy cells. Patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia may choose not to pursue treatment right away because the cancer progresses much slower. When the patient decides to pursue treatment, there are a few different ways to target the cancer and the course of action is decided upon by the patients doctor. Radiation therapy can be used to destroy cancer cells or to shrink swollen lymph nodes or spleen. Chemotherapy can also be pursued should that course of treatment best attack the cancer cells in a patient. The cancer cells can also be targeted with a monoclonal antibody to destroy or stop the growth of the cancer cells. Patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia should receive treatment right away because the gene can develop more mutations that make the cancer more resistant to treatment. The first course of treatment is targeted with a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, a drug to help fight the cancer. More treatment options can include chemotherapy and biological therapy. Biological therapy includes medicines given to a patient to help improve their body’s natural defences against the cancer. To learn more about treatment options, please read this overview of Leukemia treatment options.
Many organizations have been dedicated to helping Leukemia patients and trying to find a cure for Leukemia. One of these organizations is The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Their goal is to both find a cure for Leukemia and Lymphoma as well as improve the quality of life for patients and their families. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society also publishes a lot of information about Leukemia and Lymphoma if you are interested in learning more about either type of cancer. The National Children’s Leukemia Foundation’s main goal is to find a cure for Leukemia that can help everyone regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, with a focus on children. The Moffitt Center, located in Florida, treats cancer patients as well as researches to find cures for different types of cancers. The chart located below shows their success rate as well as the national success rates for patients with all four types of Leukemia. All of these organizations, as well as many others, accept donations to help find a cure.
To view the works cited, click here.