Absolute Lyphocyte Count (ALC)

The total volume of the Lyphocytes in the blood. This is a key measure in CLL  management. In the UK this will appear in the Full Blood Count (FBC) as “lymphocytes” along with the White Blood Count (WBC).

Where the WBC in the blood is reported as % lymphocytes in the blood it can easily be converted to ALC. ALC = WBC * % lymphocytes.

For example, if the WBC is 30.0, and the lymphocyte percent is 65%, the absolute lymphocyte number is 30.0 X 0.65 = 19.5.

Acute

An acute condition is one which starts quickly and, if untreated, progresses quickly. Acute does not necessarily mean serious – a cold is an acute illness.

Acute Lyphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL)

In ALL, the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes. These lymphocytes are not fully developed and are not able to work normally.

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)

In AML the white blood cells call granulocytes or monocytes become cancerous. The cells made are not fully formed so do not work normally.

 Acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL or APML)

This is one form of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). The condition responds particularly well to a drug called retinoic acid which causes leukaemia cells to mature and die.

Alemtuzumab

is a drug used in the treatment of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL). It is a monoclonal antibody that binds to CD52, a protein present on the surface of mature lymphocytes.

Alkylating agents

Anti-leukaemic drugs which attach to genetic material in the cell and stop cells dividing. Drugs of this type include busulphan, chlorambucil, cyclophosphamide, melphalan.

Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant

Also called an allograft. A transplant using stem cells collected from a ‘matched’ healthy donor, usually a brother or sister.

Allograft

See Allogenic Stem Cell Transplant

Allopurinol

is a drug used primarily to treat hyperuricemia (excess uric acid in blood plasma) and its complications. Uric acid is produced when cells are killed and their proteins break down. Large quantities of uric acid in the blood lead to crystal deposits in joints – this is the cause of gout or can lead to kidney damage.

Anaemia

A low number of red blood cells. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, and so your haemoglobin will also be low. Haemoglobin carries oxygen around the body. So if you are anaemic, you may feel tired or breathless.

Anthracyclines

A class of drugs which are used in chemotherapy to treat leukaemia. They are derived from Streptomyces bacterium and prevent cell division by disrupting the structure of the DNA. Read more

Antibiotics

Drugs which kill bacteria or stop them growing, for example penicillin.

Antibodies

Blood proteins produced, by white blood cells known as lymphocytes, when the body recognises that something foreign has got in, for example bacteria. The antibodies attach themselves to the invading bacteria or viruses, which are then destroyed. Each antibody will bind to a specific target antigen.

Anti-emetic

A drug to stop nausea (sickness) and vomiting or make it better.

Antigen

An antigen is a substance (usually, but not always, a protein) which the body ‘sees’ as foreign. Antigens may be on the surface of a bacterium or a virus or on parasites. The immune system responds to an antigen by producing antibodies or by white cells attacking and destroying the bacterium, virus or parasite carrying the antigen.

Antilymphocyte Globulin

Antibodies which attach to and destroy lymphocytes. They may be used clinically by injection into a vein, for example in aplastic anaemia. One form, called anti-thymocyte globulin, acts specifically against T-cells.

Antimetabolites

A group of anti-cancer drugs which prevent cells growing and dividing by blocking the chemical reactions required in the cell to produce DNA. Read more

Aplasia

When the bone marrow does not produce blood cells because there are not enough stem cells. Usually this condition affects all types of blood cells and is called aplastic anaemia.

Aplastic Anaemia

A rare disorder where the bone marrow doesn’t produce blood cells. It may be an inherited condition or, more often, the disease develops later in life. This is called acquired aplastic anaemia. It leads to a severe shortage of all types of blood cell. This can make you tired and likely to get infections. It can also cause serious problems with bleeding. Aplastic anaemia is not a blood cancer.

Apoptosis

is the process of programmed cell death (PCD) that may occur in multicellular organisms. Biochemical events lead to characteristic cell changes (morphology) and death.

Auto-Immune Haemolytic anaemia AIHA

Diseases caused when the immune system produces antibodies against tissues of its own body. This can also happen in normal healthy people but is more common in patients with CLL and hence treatment may be required for this.

Autograft

See autologous stem cell transplant.

Autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT)

A stem cell transplant using the patient’s own stem cells which have been collected and stored at an early stage of the disease. It is also called an autograft. The marrow may be ‘purged’ in the laboratory. This is to reduce the chance that there is any contamination with leukaemia cells. Unlike a donor transplant, an autologous transplant can be carried out in older patients.