Search form

The Society's 2014 ANNUAL APPEAL

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a group of cancers that originate in white blood cells called leukocytes. These cells form in the bone marrow—the soft, spongy inner portion of certain bones.

Healthy bone marrow contains young cells that normally mature into blood cells, including platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells. White blood cells normally help the body fight infection. However, in leukemia, changes occur in young white blood cells that prevent them from maturing properly. These abnormal white blood cells grow and multiply uncontrollably, flooding the body’s organs and interfering with organ function. They also prevent normal blood cells from forming.

The Facts

About 44,790 new cases of leukemia are diagnosed in the United States each year.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are the most common types in adults. Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) are less common.
Although uncommon in adults, ALL represents about 85 percent of all childhood leukemias, while about 15 percent of pediatric leukemias are AML.
Leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer, accounts for about 30 percent of all cancers that affect children and young adults.
Each year in the United States, about 14,000 adults are diagnosed with AML and about 2,500 adults are diagnosed with ALL. About 3,000 children and young adults are diagnosed with ALL, and about 300 are diagnosed with AML. Leukemias are slightly more common in males and in Caucasians. Leukemia can develop at any age, but the most likely age at diagnosis is between two and ten years of age.
Today, the cure rate for children with ALL is close to 90 percent, and the cure rate for AML is more than 50 percent while for adults with ALL the cure rate is about 40% and 40-50% for AML. MSK continues to participate in national clinical trials of emerging therapies that may benefit adults and children even more.
Leukemia is becoming an increasingly curable disease. An estimated 250,000 are living with Leukemia in the United States because of crucial developments in leukemia research and treatment.

Advances at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

New approaches in immunotherapy are being tested at MSK that
have produced remarkable early successes. Also, a number of MSK labs have pioneered the development of new therapies that reactivate broken epigenetic mechanisms, which essentially rehabilitates the cell’s ability to mature and thus rid the body of leukemia cells.

Recent research breakthroughs have taught us that leukemia cells
expand uncontrollably because they are blocked in their ability to mature,
leading to the expansion of immature white blood cells. MSK scientists have discovered this block in maturation is a result of a cellular process called epigenetics. Epigenetic mechanisms control which genes in a cell can be turned on or off. This control of gene activity is necessary for white blood cells and many other cell types to develop into fully differentiated, mature cells. Given that many cancers are a result of blocked cellular development, this work has implications for patients well beyond those with leukemia.

How You Can Help
Memorial Sloan Kettering has a long and distinguished history in
leukemia diagnosis and treatment with a vibrant research program that holds great promise for continued advances. Our vision is to ensure that patients with leukemia have access to the most innovative and potentially impactful therapies. With your support, MSK can continue to pioneer groundbreaking clinical trials, establishing better methods.

Please support the 2014 Annual Appeal and build on MSK’s long tradition of excellence in cancer care. Click here to make an online donation.

The 2013 Annual Appeal

History of The Annual Appeal

Recent Annual Appeal Topics

Acknowledging Our Supporters

If you would like additional information or to make a donation by phone, please contact The Society Office at 212-639-7972.

© 2017 The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center | 212-639-7972
1233 York Avenue, New York, NY 10065 | Privacy Policy | Financial Disclosure
Site Map |