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Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®) - National Cancer Institute

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Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®) - National Cancer Institute

National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)

  • General Information About Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)

General Information About Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

Incidence and Mortality

Estimated new cases and deaths from CML in the United States in 2015:[1]
  • New cases: 6,660.
  • Deaths: 1,140.
CML is one of a group of diseases called the myeloproliferative disorders. Other related entities include the following:
  • Polycythemia vera.
  • Myelofibrosis.
  • Essential thrombocythemia.
(Refer to the PDQ summary on Chronic Myeloproliferative Neoplasms Treatment for more information.)

Molecular Biology and Cytogenetics of CML

CML is a clonal disorder that is usually easily diagnosed because the leukemic cells of more than 95% of patients have a distinctive cytogenetic abnormality, the Philadelphia chromosome (Ph1).[2,3] The Ph1 results from a reciprocal translocation between the long arms of chromosomes 9 and 22 and is demonstrable in all hematopoietic precursors.[4] This translocation results in the transfer of the Abelson (ABL) on chromosome 9 oncogene to an area of chromosome 22 termed the breakpoint cluster region (BCR).[4] This, in turn, results in a fused BCR/ABL gene and in the production of an abnormal tyrosine kinase protein that causes the disordered myelopoiesis found in CML. Furthermore, these molecular techniques can now be used to supplement cytogenetic studies to detect the presence of the 9;22 translocation in patients without a visible Ph1 (Ph1-negative).

Prognosis and Survival

Ph1-negative CML is a poorly defined entity that is less clearly distinguished from other myeloproliferative syndromes. Patients with Ph1-negative CML generally have a poorer response to treatment and shorter survival than Ph1-positive patients.[5] Ph1-negative patients who have BCR/ABLgene rearrangement detectable by Southern blot analysis, however, have prognoses equivalent to Ph1-positive patients.[6,7]


A small subset of patients have BCR/ABL detectable only by reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR), which is the most sensitive technique currently available. Patients with RT–PCR evidence of the BCR/ABL fusion gene appear clinically and prognostically identical to patients with a classic Ph1; however, patients who are BCR/ABL-negative by RT–PCR have a clinical course more consistent with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, which is a distinct clinical entity related to myelodysplastic syndrome.[6,8,9] Fluorescent in situ hybridization of the BCR/ABL translocation can be performed on the bone marrow aspirate or on the peripheral blood of patients with CML.[10]
At the time of diagnosis of patients with CML, splenomegaly is the most common finding on physical examination.[10] The spleen may be enormous, filling most of the abdomen and presenting a significant clinical problem, or the spleen may be only minimally enlarged. In about 10% of patients, the spleen is neither palpable nor enlarged on splenic scan.
The median age of patients with Ph1-positive CML is 67 years.[11] While the median survival used to be 4 to 6 years, with the advent of the new oral therapies, the median survival is expected to approach normal life expectancy for most patients, although it is still too soon to say this definitively.


  1. American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2015. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2015. Available online Exit Disclaimer. Last accessed January 7, 2015.
  2. Kurzrock R, Kantarjian HM, Druker BJ, et al.: Philadelphia chromosome-positive leukemias: from basic mechanisms to molecular therapeutics. Ann Intern Med 138 (10): 819-30, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Goldman JM, Melo JV: Chronic myeloid leukemia--advances in biology and new approaches to treatment. N Engl J Med 349 (15): 1451-64, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Deininger MW, Goldman JM, Melo JV: The molecular biology of chronic myeloid leukemia. Blood 96 (10): 3343-56, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Onida F, Ball G, Kantarjian HM, et al.: Characteristics and outcome of patients with Philadelphia chromosome negative, bcr/abl negative chronic myelogenous leukemia. Cancer 95 (8): 1673-84, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Martiat P, Michaux JL, Rodhain J: Philadelphia-negative (Ph-) chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): comparison with Ph+ CML and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. The Groupe Français de Cytogénétique Hématologique. Blood 78 (1): 205-11, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Cortes JE, Talpaz M, Beran M, et al.: Philadelphia chromosome-negative chronic myelogenous leukemia with rearrangement of the breakpoint cluster region. Long-term follow-up results. Cancer 75 (2): 464-70, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Oscier DG: Atypical chronic myeloid leukaemia, a distinct clinical entity related to the myelodysplastic syndrome? Br J Haematol 92 (3): 582-6, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Kurzrock R, Bueso-Ramos CE, Kantarjian H, et al.: BCR rearrangement-negative chronic myelogenous leukemia revisited. J Clin Oncol 19 (11): 2915-26, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Jabbour E, Kantarjian H: Chronic myeloid leukemia: 2012 update on diagnosis, monitoring, and management. Am J Hematol 87 (11): 1037-45, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Lee SJ, Anasetti C, Horowitz MM, et al.: Initial therapy for chronic myelogenous leukemia: playing the odds. J Clin Oncol 16 (9): 2897-903, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: January 27, 2015

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