Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a blood cancer that stops your white blood cells from growing properly.
ALL involves blood cells called lymphocytes. These are an important part of your immune system because they fight infection, and they’re grown from stem cells in your bone marrow.
Before your cells finish growing into fully-formed lymphocyte cells, they’re called lymphoblasts (immature lymphocytes). Your body needs to make new lymphocytes, but when you have ALL, this process doesn’t work properly. Instead, these immature cells grow too quickly and never begin working properly.
These immature cells clog up your bone marrow and prevent it from making other blood cells. This can be a very serious problem, because we need new blood cells for a balanced immune system and healthy blood.
Most people with ALL just need chemotherapy on its own. In some people the disease is more aggressive, and it requires a high dose of chemotherapy, followed by a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
Most transplants for ALL are allograft transplants – when your new stem cells are donated by someone else. It’s rare for ALL to be treated with an autologous transplant, when doctors use your own stem cells.
Your doctor will talk to you about whether a transplant is the best treatment option for you. Their decision will be based on how likely they think it is that your leukaemia will return after chemotherapy, your general health, and other factors.
Beth had a bone marrow transplant to treat her acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Read her story here.
Information published: 06/10/16
Next review due: 06/10/19
 [Cancer Research UK