Masquerading Leukemias

T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia can masquerade as acute myeloid leukemia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It doesn't happen commonly, though some diseases can present themselves as other diseases. Scientists now know this sometimes happens with two forms of leukemia.

T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) can masquerade as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Those are the findings of a recent study comparing the two diseases.

"Find out the exact nature of your diagnosed disease."

Adolfo A. Ferrando, M.D., Ph.D. at Columbia University Institute for Cancer Genetics led a team of researchers to examine both diseases.

Leukemia occurs when normal immune cells gather and accumulate mutations that cause out of control growth. T-ALL involves immature T cells (white blood cells also known as lymphocytes) that play a key role in the body's immune system. Only about 50 percent of these cancers can be cured.

AML, on the other hand, comes from myeloid cells, which are found in the bone marrow. Five-year survival rates for AML range from 17-70 percent.

When Dr. Ferrando's team examined the genes found in T-ALL tumors, they found genes that are normally seen in stem cells and AML tumors.

These tumors also had genetic mutations typically associated with AML. Some 25 percent of T-ALL tumors contained mutations in ETV6, a gene involved in cells that can help cancers to grow.

Authors say that additional research is needed to learn if the ETV6 mutations influence the outlook for patients with tumors in what they call the gray zone between T-ALL and AML.

This study was published online December 12, 2011 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

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Review Date: 
December 13, 2011
Last Updated:
November 8, 2012