Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), is cancer of the blood in which too many granulocytes, a type of white blood cell, are produced in the marrow. The granulocytes normally fight infection. With this disease, the bone marrow makes too many of these cells and they only partly mature.

CML is in one way a special cancer: in almost every case the underlying cause of the cancer is known. In CML, two regions of DNA that aren’t normally next to each other are fused, creating a protein not normally found in the body that can induce stem cell to develop into granulocytes.

Stanford Expertise

When you are being treated for cancer you want a physician who is familiar with your particular disease. Yet because CML is rare it can be difficult to find a doctor who has treated patients with the disease. Our specialists at the Cancer Center not only treat CML, but considered some of the world-leaders in treating leukemia and offer the most advanced diagnostic technologies and treatments available today.

A Personalized, Team Approach

Patients with leukemia are evaluated and treated in Stanford's Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant clinics by a team of world-renowned faculty. We offer state-of-the-art chemotherapy protocols for leukemia and Stanford hematologists have helped develop the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines for the management of hematologic malignancies. Our goal is to improve the survival and quality of life of patients.

Designing the best treatment for each CML patient is complex because there are many effective therapies that doctors can choose from. Your physician team at the Cancer Center will be familiar with the most recent studies showing which treatments (or treatment combinations) are likely to be most appropriate for your specific situation. Possibilities include:

Biological Therapy

Because the exact cause of CML is known, researchers have been able to produce a very specific drug called Gleevec that targets the aberrant protein. This drug must be taken continuously to keep the protein in check.


Interferon chemotherapy has been a mainstay of treatment for CML, especially in older patients. Other chemotherapy drugs such as hydroxyurea and busulfan are also often considered.

Blood and Marrow Transplantation

For younger healthy patients a blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) from a well-matched donor can provide excellent results. The BMT Program at Stanford has been very successful with a history of limited morbidity rates and acute mortality that is well below most published reports.

Clinical Trials

Cancer Center physicians are active in developing and testing new therapies for the treatment of CML When appropriate, patients are invited to participate in studies to investigate the newest treatments as well as large-scale clinical trials for more established treatments.

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