Predicting Leukemia? Abnormal Cells in the Blood Found Years before Diagnosis

Six years prior to a diagnosis of Leukemia, researchers have seen abnormal white blood cells present in patients.   This new study was published by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 12, 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a blood cancer that is slow to progress. In the United States, CLL is the most common form of leukemia in adults. While we do not currently know the cause of the disease, this study found new clues.

“This finding emphasizes the need to better define predictors of cancer development,” said NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, M.D. “Identifying the earliest indicators of cancer gives researchers an opportunity to study the window from the prediagnostic state to the transformation to disease. This may help define risk factors and may allow for the discovery of novel molecular targets for treatment of the disease.”

Of the over 75,000 individuals who particated in the study and, there were 45 that went from “cancer free” at the beginning of the study to being diagnosed with Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) at some point later on. The researchers found that 44 of the 45 CLL patients had monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) six months to  six years prior to CLL diagnosis. MBL has similiarities to CLL.

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