The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on September 21, 2021.

Chronic myeloid leukemia

Also known as chronic myelogenous leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a form of cancer that affects the bone marrow and blood. It begins in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow and then, over time, spreads to the blood. Eventually, the disease spreads to other areas of the body.

Typically, being categorized as chronic indicates that this type of leukemia spreads and grows slowly. However, CML can change from slow progressing into a rapidly growing, acute form of leukemia that can spread to almost any organ in the body.

Unlike the three other main types of leukemia, CML has a significant difference that sets it apart from the rest. It has been shown that CML is associated with an abnormal chromosome known as the Philadelphia chromosome (Ph chromosome).

Chromosomes are structures in cells that contain genes, which give instructions to the cells. The Ph chromosome is an abnormality that occurs when a piece of chromosome 22 breaks off and attaches to the end of chromosome 9, which also breaks off and attaches to chromosome 22.

The breaks in both chromosomes cause the BCR and ABL genes, which combine to create the cancer gene. The link between the Ph chromosome and CML was discovered around 1960.

Chronic myeloid leukemia symptoms

Symptoms of CML include:

  • Easy bleeding
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Pale skin

Chronic myeloid leukemia treatment options

Treatment for CML may include radiation therapychemotherapystem cell transplant and/or immunotherapy. Your integrated team of leukemia experts will answer your questions and recommend treatment options based on your unique diagnosis and needs.

A common chemotherapy treatment for chronic leukemias is oral chemotherapy. Patients with CML may receive Gleevec® (imatinib), Sprycel® (dasatinib) and Tasigna® (nilotinib).

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