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Leukemia

Leukemias are cancers of the blood and bone marrow. They are categorized by which type of blood cell they affect and how quickly they progress. Leukemia arises in the two main types of white blood cells: lymphoid and myeloid cells. Fast-growing leukemias are called acute leukemias. Slower-growing leukemias are called chronic leukemias.

Fred Hutch is a world leader in leukemia research. Our laboratory, clinical and public-health research is improving the way the disease is diagnosed and treated, and improving the quality of life of survivors. Fred Hutch pioneered bone marrow transplantation, one of the most significant advances in treating leukemia. Thanks to bone marrow transplant, cure rates for some forms of leukemia have risen from nearly zero to 90 percent. 

Our researchers continue to improve bone marrow and blood stem cell transplantation for leukemia, making these therapies more effective and safer. Informed by our studies of leukemia biology, our scientists working in the laboratory and the clinic are developing new leukemia-targeting drugs and drug combinations, as well as new tests to help guide treatment. And we carry out long-term studies to understand how survivors fare years after treatment and develop new ways to improve their health.
 

Researchers and Patient Treatment

Dr. Jennifer Adair

Our Leukemia Researchers

Our interdisciplinary scientists and clinicians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat leukemia as well as other cancers and diseases.

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Former transplant patients

Patient Treatment & Care

At Fred Hutch, our interdisciplinary teams work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our aim is to provide patients access to advanced treatment options while getting the best cancer care.

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Selected Leukemia Clinical Trials

Clinical research is an essential part of the scientific process that leads to new treatments and better care. Clinical trials can also be a way for patients to get early access to new cutting-edge therapies. Our clinical research teams are running clinical studies on various kinds of leukemia.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

In this cancer, the bone marrow makes abnormal myeloblasts (a type of white blood cell). This hinders the body’s production of normal cells, including infection-fighting white blood cells, oxygen-carrying red blood cells and clot-producing platelets. 

AML is also called acute myelogenous leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, acute monoblastic leukemia and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.

AML Clinical Trials

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

In CML, too many blood stem cells develop into an abnormal type of white blood cell. Called granulocytes, these useless cells can accumulate, preventing the body from producing the normal blood cells and platelets it needs. 

CML originates from a genetic abnormality called the Philadelphia chromosome. It is also known as chronic granulocytic, chronic myelocytic or chronic myelogenous leukemia.

CML Clinical Trials

Chronic Lymphcytic Leukemia (CLL)

In CLL, the bone marrow makes too many abnormal white blood cells, or lymphocytes. These cells never become healthy, infection-fighting cells. They interfere with the production of other important blood cells.

CLL Clinical Trials

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

In ALL, the marrow makes too many immature white blood cells, called lymphoblasts. Having too many lymphoblasts decreases the growth of red blood cells, other white blood cells and platelets. ALL is also called acute lymphocytic leukemia or acute lymphoid leukemia.

ALL Clinical Trials

See All Leukemia Clinical Trials

Leukemia Research

Leukemia research at Fred Hutch encompasses every aspect of the disease’s biology and treatment in children and adults. It begins in the laboratory, where we are cracking the secrets of leukemia cells and developing potential new drugs and immunotherapies. It includes our world-renowned clinical research that studies new methods for treating and caring for leukemia patients. It extends throughout our patients' lifespan as we track survivors’ quality of life years and even decades after treatment.

Blood Stem Cell (Hematopoietic) Transplantation

Fred Hutch scientists are improving blood stem cell transplantation to save the lives of more people with leukemia. Efforts include:

  • Learning the secrets of immune genetics to find better-matched donors for each patient 
  • Developing less toxic transplantation regimens
  • Developing newer forms of transplantation that can offer a patient a good chance of success even without a fully matched donor

All of these advances are informed by our research on the fundamental biology of blood-forming cells, the immune system and leukemia.

Survivorship and Treatment Complications

During and after treatment for leukemia, patients can experience numerous medical or psychosocial side effects. Fred Hutch scientists are developing supportive care for leukemia patients to protect them from treatment complications and improve their quality of life. They are also studying the long-term and late effects of leukemia treatment to improve the quality of life for survivors, even years after treatment. 

In particular, our scientists are world experts in the complications of blood stem-cell transplantation, including infections and graft-vs.-host disease. Our scientists are learning how these complications occur and developing better methods to prevent and treat them.

Diagnostics and Prognostics

Fred Hutch scientists are developing better ways to diagnose leukemia, including low-cost methods that could be used around the world. They are also developing new tests for determining prognosis — the likely course of a patient’s leukemia. This information can help doctors choose the best treatment for each individual patient.

Targeted Drug Therapies

We are developing new drugs that exploit the weaknesses of leukemia biology to treat the disease. The goal of targeted drug therapies is to maximize the leukemia-killing effect while minimizing harm to healthy tissues.

An example of our impact is gemtuzumab ozogamicin, a drug for acute myeloid leukemia that steers a cell-killing toxin to cancer cells. The drug grew out of our fundamental laboratory research on leukemia biology. Also known as Mylotarg, the drug was the first so-called “magic bullet” drug on the market for any disease and the first new drug for acute myeloid leukemia brought to market in 15 years. 

Immunity

Bone marrow transplantation provided the first definitive and reproducible example of the immune system's power to cure cancers like leukemia. Our researchers continue to lead the way in harnessing this power to treat patients with leukemia. 

A prime example is T-cell therapy. In this form of immunotherapy, a patient’s immune cells are genetically engineered to recognize and kill leukemia cells. We are also developing drugs that ramp up a patient’s natural immune response against leukemia. In addition, our scientists are developing new leukemia drugs based on antibodies — disease-targeting immune proteins. For example, we are leaders in radioimmunotherapy, in which a radioactive isotope is linked to a leukemia-targeting antibody.

Latest Leukemia News

SEE ALL LEUKEMIA NEWS
Hutch scientists receive $25M to solve breast cancer metastasis New collaboration will target dormant tumor cells, keeping them asleep (or killing them) so they won’t spread July 27, 2022
Blood and Marrow Transplant Reunion returns to Fred Hutch Hundreds gather in Seattle to celebrate life, science and cancer survivorship July 19, 2022
Latest Fred Hutch research on COVID-19 How Hutch scientists have been tackling coronavirus in lab and clinic June 30, 2022
Dr. Brenda Sandmaier named president of American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Transplant immunotherapy physician-scientist will serve 2022-2023 term April 26, 2022
Last Modified, September 21, 2022