Click to go home
The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC

Hematology Dictionary
Back to Index


Acute Leukemia
A rapidly progressive cancer of the blood of sudden onset and characterized by the uncontrolled proliferation of immature blood cells, which take over the bone marrow and spill into the blood stream. If left untreated it can be fatal within a few weeks or months.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
A rapidly progressing cancer of the blood affecting the type of white blood cell known as lymphocytes. Approximately 600 new cases are diagnosed every year in the UK and it is the most common form of childhood leukemia.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
A rapidly progressing cancer of the blood affecting immature cells of the bone marrow, usually of the white cell population. Approximately 1,600 new cases are diagnosed each year in the UK. It is much more common in adults than in children.

Acute Non-Lymphocytic Leukemia
see acute myeloid leukemia

Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia
This is one form of acute myeloid leukemia. The condition responds particularly well to a drug called retinoic acid, which causes differentiation of the leukemia cells, which then die.

Alkylating Agents
Anti-leukemic drugs which interact with genetic material (DNA) in such a way as to prevent division of the cells. Drugs of this type include busulphan, chlorambucil, cyclophosphamide, and melphalan. See also chemotherapy.

Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant
A bone marrow transplant using marrow collected from a "matched" healthy donor, usually a brother or sister. The risks associated with the transplant increase with age and 55 years of age is generally regarded as the upper limit.

See allogeneic bone marrow transplant

The loss of hair. A side effect of some forms of chemotherapy or radiotherapy used to treat leukemia and other cancers. Usually temporary.

Amyloidosis is not a specific disease but the term for a group of conditions in which an abnormal substance called amyloid is deposited throughout the body. Amyloid is produced by plasma cells and amyloidoisis may occur in association with multiple myeloma.

Deficiency the oxygen-carrying pigment hemoglobin in the blood. Causes pallor, tiredness and breathlessness.

Loss of appetite

Drugs, which are used in leukemia therapy to prevent cell division by disrupting the structure of the DNA. Drugs of this type include Daunorubicin, Doxorubicin (Adriamycin), Epirubicin, and Idarubicin. See also chemotherapy.

Drugs, which kill or stop the growth of bacteria, for example penicillin.

Naturally produced substances in the blood, which destroy or neutralize specific toxins or 'foreign bodies', for example viruses. They are produced by the white blood cells known as lymphocytes in response to exposure to antigens.

A drug to prevent or alleviate the nausea and vomiting which sometimes occur as side effects of chemotherapy. Drugs of this type include Metoclopramide (Maxolon), Ondanestron, and Zofran.

A substance, which stimulates cells of the body's defense system to react against it by producing antibodies.

Antilymphocyte Globulin
Antibodies, which attach to and destroy lymphocytes. This may be used clinically by injection into a vein, for example in aplastic anemia. One form, called antithymocyte globulin, acts specifically against T-Cells.

A group of anti-cancer drugs which prevent cells growing and dividing by blocking the chemical reactions required in the cell to produce DNA. Drugs of this type include 6 mercaptopurine, azathioprine, thioguanine, and methotrexate. See also chemotherapy.

Failure of production of blood cells in the bone marrow. Usually this condition affects all types of blood cells, which is called aplastic anemia.

Aplastic Anemia
A rare disorder characterized by the failure of the bone marrow to produce blood cells. It may occur as an inherited condition (see Fanconi's anemia) or, more often, the disease develops later in life. This is called acquired aplastic anemia. It leads to a severe shortage of all types of blood cell causing tiredness, susceptibility to infection and serious problems with bleeding.

see autologous bone marrow transplant

Autoimmune Disease
Diseases caused by an individual's immune system producing antibodies against tissues of its own body.

Autoimmune Thrombocytopaenia Purpura
See idiopathic thrombocytopaenia purpura

Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant (ABMT)
A bone marrow transplant using the patient's own bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells, which have been collected and stored at an early stage of disease. The marrow may be manipulated in the laboratory (see purging) to try and ensure there is no risk of contamination with leukemia cells. This type of procedure may be carried out up to the age of 55-60 years.


Is there a term you would like to see included? Email us. Thank you for your feedback.

The information in this glossary is cited with permission from the Leukemia Research Foundation web site.

^ Top