What is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?
Chronic myelogenous leukemia, also known as CML, is a cancer of the white blood cells where the bone marrow produces an unregulated quantity of white blood cells. It is a slow progressing blood and bone marrow disease that occurs mostly during or after middle age, but occasionally in children.
A person with CML produces too many of the white blood cell called granulocytes. The granulocytes do not become healthy white blood cells and build up in the bone marrow, not allowing space for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. Because of this, infection, anemia, or easy bleeding may occur.
Treatment kills the cancerous cells, but also damages the bone marrow stem cells. A stem cell transplant can then performed to replenish bone marrow cells killed off from the radiation. The idea that stem cells can form into bone marrow cells was proven by 1970’s by E. Donnall Thomas, a Noble Prize winner in Physiology and Medicine. This has been the only consistently curative treatment of CML.
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia and Cord Blood Treatments
Although bone marrow transplants are the most common means of stem cell treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia, cord blood transplants are also an option. The hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in umbilical cord blood are the same type of stem cells that make bone marrow transplants such a powerful treatment option. Stored HSCs have the potential to be used for the individual that stored them, or for a sibling with a condition.