Types of Leukemia

English
Share
English
Share
Larry Buie, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist (left) Ellin Berman, MD (center) and Sara De La Cruz, RN

Larry Buie, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist (left) Ellin Berman, MD (center) and Sara De La Cruz, RN, are part of the leukemia team of specialists at MSK.

Doctors categorize leukemia based on which type of white blood cell is involved — lymphocytes or myeloid cells — and whether the illness is developing very quickly (acute disease) or slowly over time (chronic disease). Treatment options depend on the type of leukemia you have.

Lymphocytic leukemias develop from cells that give rise to T lymphocytes (T cells), B lymphocytes (B cells), or natural killer (NK) cells. Each of these cell types has a specialized role in the immune system; some produce antibodies, whereas others directly fight or direct other immune cells to fight infections.

This information is about leukemia in adults.

Read more about leukemia in children.

Myeloid leukemias develop from cells that give rise to white blood cells called granulocytes and monocytes. Granulocytes get their name from the enzyme-packed granules they carry inside them. They release these enzymes when encountering invading bacteria or fungi. Monocytes eventually become macrophages, which engulf and destroy bacteria and fungi.

In acute leukemias, which develop rapidly, the malignant cells (called blasts) are immature and incapable of performing their immune system functions. Chronic leukemias develop in more-mature cells, which can perform some of their duties — but not very well. These abnormal cells usually multiply at a slower rate than acute leukemias.

New Patient Appointments

Call 646-497-9154
Available Monday through Friday, - (Eastern time)

Of the four common types of leukemia in adults, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) occur most frequently. Other related blood cancers include myeloproliferative neoplasms and systemic mastocytosis.