Leukemia was first described as a disease in 1845 by Rudolf Virchow, a prominent physician at Berlin Charité University Hospital. “Leukemia” can be freely translated as “white blood” and refers to the pathological multiplication of white blood cells. Today, several diseases of the blood-forming system are covered by this term.
The blood consists of cells that move around in a fluid (blood plasma). These blood cells are divided into three types: erythrocytes (red blood cells) are responsible for transporting oxygen, leukocytes (white blood cells) are responsible for the body’s immune system, and platelets (thrombocytes) are responsible for blood clotting. All these cells have a limited lifespan in the blood, meaning that the body must continuously produce new cells. These cells grow in the bone marrow from so-called blood stem cells by dividing and passing through several stages of maturation, entering the bloodstream as soon as they are functional. This ensures a constant supply of fresh blood containing functional cells.