About chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
The goal of CML treatment is clear: fewer leukemia cells in your body. Think of your CML treatment as a series of steps, where each step forward means you are responding to treatment and reducing the number of leukemia cells in your body. In the process of lowering the level of leukemia cells, there are several important milestones you will strive to reach along the way. To achieve these milestones, it’s very important that you take your medications as directed by your physician and use the most sensitive and accurate blood test possible.
Achieving early and deep molecular responses means your Philadelphia-chromosome positive CML (Ph+ CML) is responding to treatment. Every milestone is a reason to celebrate.
Chronic myeloid leukemia, or CML, is a cancer that occurs when the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow (the soft, spongy tissue in the center of bones) make too many white blood cells, including immature ones.
Ph+ CML is caused by a genetic abnormality that produces an abnormal chromosome in bone marrow stem cells—the Philadelphia chromosome (abbreviated “Ph chromosome” or simply “Ph”). The Ph chromosome carries a gene called BCR-ABL, which produces a protein called Bcr-Abl.
The Bcr-Abl protein triggers bone marrow to keep making abnormal versions of white blood cells, which are the leukemia cells. The BCR-ABL gene and Bcr-Abl protein are the key causes of Ph+ CML.
The resulting uncontrolled growth of these white blood cells will cause a large increase in their concentration in the blood. Over time, these white blood cells crowd out healthy red blood cells and platelets as well as normal white cells, which can have negative effects on your health.
Treating Your Ph+ CML
Targeted CML therapies have been developed to slow the reproduction of leukemia cells. These therapies work to reduce the levels of cancer-causing proteins and CML cells. Some patients who respond exceptionally well to treatment may achieve a level of leukemic cells that is nearly undetectable.
As with any condition, it is important to take your medication as prescribed and directed by your doctor. It is also important to get the most accurate test possible at each step of your journey, as this will enable you and your doctor to see if your treatment is working.