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Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Lecturer in Biomedical Science at the University of Salford Tahmina Hussain looks at leukaemia and presents a case study.

Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood that involves the proliferation of white blood cells and can be categorised into two types: acute or chronic leukaemia. The rapid progression of immature white blood cells and blasts is classified as acute leukaemia, whereas chronic leukaemia develops slowly over a period of time and involves an excess of mature white blood cells that are malignant. Leucocytes originate from either the lymphoid series (T and B cells) or from the myeloid series (neutrophils, monocytes, basophils, eosinophils, erythrocytes and megakaryocytes). These two types of leukaemia can be further classified depending on whether the blasts are lymphoblasts or myeloblasts or if the mature white blood cells are lymphocytes or myelocytes:
•    Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (lymphoblasts)
•    Acute myeloid leukaemia (myeloblasts)
•    Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (lymphocytes)
•    Chronic myeloid leukaemia (myelocytes).

The subtypes of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) are B-cell ALL and T-cell ALL and they can be distinguished by immunophenotyping. ALL can be separated into three groups depending on their cellular morphology, blast size and nucleus to cytoplasm ratio. The three groups are L1, L2 and L3. The L1 and L2 subtypes include the B and T lineage whilst L3 includes only the B lineage.

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Image credit | Science Photo Library

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