Cancer that Affects the Blood and Bone Marrow

Leukemias are cancers of the blood cells produced in the bone marrow. Leukemias develop when the bone marrow produces blood cells in a disordered way. There are many different sub-types of leukemia:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
  • Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML)

In general, acute leukemias (such as ALL and AML) are highly aggressive and can progress rapidly, whereas chronic leukemias are slow-growing and take longer to develop. Leukemias are classified according to the type of blood cells they arise from – lymphoid cells (immune cells) or myeloid cells (which can mature into other cell types).


The treatment of leukemia varies depending on each sub-type.

  • For acute leukemias, which are highly aggressive, the choice of treatment depends on many patient factors (age, other medical conditions, patient choice). Much has been learned about the biology of these leukemias in recent years, leading to new medicines.
  • For chronic leukemias, the treatment can include no treatment at all (active surveillance) for early stage CLL, medicines taken by mouth, targeted therapies, or standard chemotherapy.
  • Bone marrow transplantation (also called stem cell transplantation) is often considered.
  • Our team of specialists at Penn State Cancer Institute will discuss standard and experimental options with you and your family.

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