Adult Leukemia Treatments: More Options, Better Outcomes

Dr. Wetzler explains why experience and the volume of patients matters in choosing where to go for leukemia treatment.

Treatment for leukemia can include active surveillance (also called watchful waiting), biological therapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and blood or marrow transplantation (BMT). Sometimes a combination of these treatments is used.

The choice of treatment depends mainly on the following:

  • The type of leukemia (acute or chronic)
  • Your age
  • Whether leukemia cells were found in your cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid around your brain and spine)

When your case is discussed at the multidisciplinary conference, members of your Roswell Park team will work together to plan the best treatment strategy for you.

The Leukemia Team diagnoses and treats adult patients with cancers of the blood, including:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – treated by the Leukemia Team
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) – treated by the Leukemia Team
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) – treated by the Leukemia Team
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) – treated by the Lymphoma/Myeloma Team

Because there are so many subtypes of leukemia, seeking care from a team that specializes in leukemia is essential. Every Roswell Park physician who treats leukemia patients has extensive subspecialty experience in diagnosing and treating leukemia.

Acute Leukemia

People with acute leukemia need to be treated right away. It is important to remember that many people with acute leukemia can be cured. The goal of treatment is to destroy signs of leukemia in the body and make symptoms go away. This is called a remission. After people go into remission, more therapy may be given to prevent the disease from coming back (relapsing). This type of therapy is called consolidation therapy or maintenance therapy.

Chronic Leukemia

If you have chronic leukemia without symptoms, you may not need cancer treatment right away. Our doctors will watch your health closely so treatment can start when you do begin to have symptoms. Keeping a close eye on the situation without starting treatment right away is called active surveillance or watchful waiting.

When treatment for chronic leukemia is needed, it can often control the disease and its symptoms. Chronic leukemia can seldom be cured with chemotherapy, but maintenance therapy can keep the disease in remission. Blood or marrow transplantation (BMT) can cure some people with chronic leukemia.

Roswell Park's Centers for Leukemia Care

  • Roswell Park outpatients who are being treated for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) or chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) receive care in the Leukemia Clinic.
  • Outpatients being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are treated in the Lymphoma/Myeloma Clinic.
  • Inpatient services are delivered on a separate floor of the hospital, where specialized nursing staff provide care in a HEPA-filtered Leukemia Unit designed to maintain the highest standards of safety.