Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Leukemia Chronic Lymphocytic Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Chemotherapy drugs are a primary therapy for more advanced stages of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (Stages 1-IV). These drugs can directly destroy cancer cells in the body. Since chemotherapy is a systemic form of treatment, it goes all over the body. It not only kills cancer cells, but normal cells as well.

Most chemotherapy is delivered intravenously (injectable form), but a few can be taken orally. Drugs that need to get into the brain and spinal cord may need to be given with special catheters placed in these areas.

Chemotherapy may be given in cycles of treatment and recovery periods. The number of cycles is usually determined by a standard regimen (or protocol). The goal is to kill the rapidly-growing leukemia calls and restore the blood counts (and bone marrow) to normal. This is called remission.

During chemotherapy, patients often require treatment with medications to control nausea and vomiting and blood transfusions for anemia or low platelet counts. Sometimes antibiotics will be given to prevent bacterial infection.

Close monitoring of blood counts, liver and kidney function and the overall health of the patient is necessary during chemotherapy. Chemotherapy patients are usually at high risk for infection, bleeding and other complications due to the unwanted effects of the drugs on normal body cells.

The purpose of initial treatment is to achieve a remission. This is called remission induction. It is often followed by a period of lower-dose, maintenance chemotherapy. The desired result is a permanent remission, or cure.

Recurrences of leukemia may require more aggressive chemotherapy with a bone marrow transplant, or radiation therapy to affected areas.

Continue to Leukemia Chronic Lymphocytic Drugs

Last Updated: Dec 7, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Leukemia Chronic Lymphocytic References
  1. Yee KW, O'Brien SM. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: diagnosis and treatment. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006 Aug;81(8):1105-29. [16901035]
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