keeping on the medical theme...

In the United States, more than 30,000 new cases of leukemia will be diagnosed in the coming year, and adult onset of the disease will account for 90% of these cases. Leukemia is not a single disease but a group of related diseases. There are no specific symptoms for leukemias; instead, symptoms are more generalized and include fatigue, weakness, unexplained weight loss, and pain. Most cases of leukemia are found during routine laboratory tests such as a complete blood count (CBC with differential).

Once the initial diagnosis of leukemia is made, further testing includes bone marrow aspiration, lumbar puncture, and excisional biopsies to determine the specific type of leukemia. When leukemias are detected, they are not classified by stages because they are systemic diseases and other organs such as the spleen, lymph nodes, liver, and central nervous system are already involved.

Leukemias are classified into acute and chronic forms. Cancerous cells rapidly reproduce and accumulate in both forms of the disease, crowding out normal white blood cells. The difference between the two forms of leukemia is that, in the acute form, bone marrow cells do not reach maturity and immature cells accumulate. In the chronic form, the cells appear mature but are abnormal and live longer than normal white cells. If left untreated, the majority of patients with an acute form of the disease have a life expectancy of 1 year.

Leukemias are further classified according to the type of affected bone marrow cells. The cancer is myelogenous if the involved blood cells are granulocytes or monocytes. The cancer is lymphocytic if the affected cells are lymphocytes. Leukemias are divided into four main types: acute myelogenous (AML), chronic myelogenous (CML), acute lymphocytic (ALL), and chronic lymphocytic (CLL). There are also several subtypes of these diseases based upon the French-American-British (FAB) classification system for acute leukemias. Prognosis and treatment are based on the diagnosis of the type and subtype of the disease.

Leukemias respond well to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and these treatment methods are often used in combination. The treatment of leukemia involves the use of a combination of cancer medications given over a period of time. As a general rule, AML will be treated with high doses of chemotherapy agents over a short period of time, whereas ALL is treated with lower doses of chemotherapy over a longer period of time.

Chemotherapy agents attack rapidly dividing cells; however, they also interfere with the production of white blood cells, thereby exposing the patient to the risk of infection. Medications known as growth factors increase white blood cell counts and are often given in combination with chemotherapy. Interferons (IFN) are a group of naturally occurring biologic response modifiers that are sometimes used in the treatment of chronic leukemias (Aviles 1997). The most commonly used of these substances is interferon-alpha.

Interferon reduces the growth of cancerous cells, inhibits their replication, and enhances the immune system's response to the cancer. Interferon appears to be particularly useful when it is used as a maintenance therapy in patients with minimal residual disease (post-remission) or complete remission. In addition, all-trans retinoic acid (a vitamin A analogue), when used in combination with Interferon, may be useful in prolonging the lives of patients with promyelocytic leukemia and other forms of the disease (Zheng et al. 1996; Sacchi et al. 1997). A cautionary note to the use of this therapy is that the patient may be at risk for thrombosis (blood clots). However, heparin therapy or the use of certain nutrients may reduce this risk (see the Thrombosis Prevention protocol).

Other therapies for the treatment of leukemias include stem-cell therapy. Stem-cell therapy involves removing stem cells from the patient either by bone marrow aspiration or by a procedure called apheresis (also called peripheral blood stem-cell (PBSC) transplant), when the cells are removed from the peripheral blood system. Stem cells may be obtained from the patient or from a donor who is a close tissue match to the patient. In this therapy, high doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy destroy the patient's bone marrow, and the collected stem cells are then transplanted into the patient to restore normal blood cell production. This type of therapy is still in the experimental stage. As a result, it is very expensive and may not be covered by insurance.
danke schoen, i do know what cancer is and how it spreads, it's just that the leukemia he has is really rare. they're pretty sure he was picked on by some carcinogenic chemicals when he was gettin his PhD in chemistry years ago. he's in the hospital for an indeterminable amount of time; the doctors are trying to stabilize him before they start his chemo.
jebus this sucks:(

edit: incidentally, Dr Zheng et al is a group that is at my alma mater
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A close friend of mine has ALL, so my symapthies go out to you :(
ChikkenNoodul said:
Ahhh chemo, the cure that is worse than the disease :(

My condolences :heart:

thanks hon:heart:
i wish i were smarter than i am, i could be in grad school right now researching immunotherapy for cancer patients:(
ChikkenNoodul said:
Yeah, same here.

Just take some small comfort in knowing that there are some fantastic oncologists out there doing all they can.
my mother has some connections through Brown University (she used to work there for many years) and i think she's going to try to get them to look at him.
This is sort of off topic, but since the thread said staying with the medical theme, my dog has a really bad over-growth of Clostridium. That is bacteria in the intestines that are there normally, but under stress they multiply. I took him to the vet this morning and they ran a stool check. His is so bad he's on a double dose of the medicine and on a triple course, instead of 7 days, he is on it for 21. Basically he has bloody diarrhea and a bad belly ache, the really sucky part is that its contagious and since I am pregnant I am really suseptable.