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Ann Intern Med. 1999 Aug 3;131(3):207-19.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia: biology and therapy.

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  • 1Department of Leukemia, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030, USA.


Chronic myelogenous leukemia is a myeloproliferative disorder. It is characterized by a biphasic or triphasic clinical course in which a benign chronic phase is followed by transformation into an accelerated and blastic phase. On a cytogenetic and molecular level, most patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia demonstrate BCR-ABL fusion genes in hematopoietic progenitor cells, which result from a reciprocal translocation between chromosomes 9 and 22; this translocation leads to a shortened chromosome 22, called the Philadelphia chromosome. Translation of the fusion products yields chimeric proteins of variable size that have increased tyrosine kinase activity. Conventional chemotherapy with hydroxyurea or busulfan can achieve hematologic control but cannot modify the natural disease course, which inevitably terminates in a rapidly fatal blastic phase. Since its introduction in the 1980s, allogeneic stem-cell transplantation has provided the groundwork for a cure of chronic myelogenous leukemia. However, few patients are eligible for this treatment because of donor availability and age restrictions. Therapy with interferon-alpha alone or in combination with cytarabine suppresses the leukemic clone, produces cytogenetic remissions, and prolongs survival. It is an effective alternative first-line treatment for patients ineligible for transplantation. New drugs active against chronic myelogenous leukemia may show increased activity in the transformed phases of the disease. Novel therapies and concepts are developing rapidly; targeted molecules are tyrosine kinases, ras, and messenger RNA through antisense oligonucleotides. Alternative transplantation options, such as stem cells from autologous sources and matched unrelated donors, are expanding. Immunomodulation by adoptive immunotherapy and vaccine strategies hold significant promise for the cure of chronic myelogenous leukemia.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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