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Other Treatments for Leukemia

Blood Transfusions

Leukemia can decrease healthy blood cells. These cells may need to be replaced with one or more blood transfusions. Blood will be taken from a donor that has the same blood type as you. It may be collected as whole blood or specific blood cells are pulled out. The blood cells will be passed to you through an IV. Types of blood cells you can receive through a transfer include:

  • Red blood cells—to treat anemia
  • White blood cells—to improve immune system
  • Platelets—to manage clotting and bleeding

Bone Marrow Transplant

Leukemia treatment can badly damage bone marrow. It will kill the cancer, but also make it hard for the marrow to make healthy blood cells. A bone marrow transplant (BMT) can help the body regrow bone marrow. Stem cells are early stage blood cells. They can regrow the marrow. These stem cells may be collected from bone marrow, blood, or umbilical cord blood. They may be:

  • Autologous—Stem cells are taken from you before treatment.
    • Stem cells are frozen until they are needed.
    • May have cancer cells. Medicine may be given to prevent cancer growth.
  • Allogeneic—collected from a donor. The donor must be a blood and marrow match. A family member may be the best match.

The stem cells can then be passed through an IV. The cells travel through the blood and collect in the bones. There they will grow and replace marrow. It will take some time for the marrow to grow. It can then start to make healthy blood cells. You will need to be in a hospital until the blood cells are at healthy levels. There are risks to this procedure. If it works well there will be healthy, cancer-free marrow.

Biologic Therapy

Biologic therapy uses drugs to kill or control cancer. It may be used alone or with other treatments. The drugs used are based on leukemia type and may include:

  • Blinatumomab
  • Rituximab
  • Obinutuzumab
  • Ofatumumab
  • Alemtuzumab
  • Interferon
REFERENCES:

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) in adults. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-lymphocytic-leukemia.html. Accessed March 14, 2019.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-myeloid-leukemia.html. Accessed March 14, 2019.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia.html. Accessed March 14, 2019.

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-myeloid-leukemia.html. Accessed March 14, 2019.

Initial management of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T907298/Initial-management-of-chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia-CLL. Updated January 16, 2019. Accessed March 14, 2019.

Management of chronic myeloid leukemia in accelerated or blast phase. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T907373/Management-of-chronic-myeloid-leukemia-in-accelerated-or-blast-phase. Updated January 4, 2018. Accessed March 14, 2019.

Management of chronic myeloid leukemia in chronic phase. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T907372/Management-of-chronic-myeloid-leukemia-in-chronic-phase. Updated January 4, 2018. Accessed March 14, 2019.

Management of relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T907299/Management-of-relapsed-or-refractory-chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia-CLL. Updated January 23, 2019. Accessed March 14, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 3/14/2019