White blood cells and, in particular, their immature precursors, multiply significantly in the presence of leukemia. The diseased cells displace the healthy cells in the bone marrow. This leads to a deficiency of all three healthy blood cell types, which is expressed in the following way:
- Red blood cells: Paleness and weakness due to worsening oxygen transport
- White blood cells: Increased susceptibility to infections due to a lack of immune cells
- Platelets: Bruising and bleeding that is difficult to control due to impaired blood clotting
Depending on the type of leukemia cells, a distinction is made between myeloid and lymphocytic leukemia. Both types of leukemia can be acute or chronic. Acute leukemia develops very quickly and can become life-threatening within a few weeks without treatment. Conversely, chronic leukemia develops gradually, with symptoms sometimes only appearing after months or years.
A distinction is mainly made between the following types of leukemia:
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
The chances of recovery vary depending on the type and severity of the leukemia. Since leukemia is very individual, the attending doctor needs to create a personal treatment plan for each patient. Frequently, however, treatment with chemotherapy or radiation is not sufficient. Transferring (transplanting) healthy stem cells then becomes the only hope of survival.
Indications for a stem cell transplant
The transplantation of healthy stem cells has also proven successful in a number of other blood diseases – especially severe immune deficiencies and diseases requiring particularly aggressive treatment, such as massive chemotherapy or strong irradiation. Examples of diseases include:
A more detailed list (in German) can be found in the indication catalog of the German Working Group for Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplantation (DAG-KBT): <https://dag-kbt.de/Leitlinie_zur_allogenen_SCT.html