, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 189-199

Blastic phase of chronic myelogenous leukemia

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Opinion statement

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), also known as chronic myelocytic or chronic myeloid leukemia, is a clonal disorder of hematopoiesis that arises in a hematopoietic stem cell or early progenitor cell. This is characterized by the dysregulated production of mature non-lymphoid cells with normal differentiation. Eventually, in spite of the term chronic, there is progression to acute leukemia, usually of the myeloid variety, which is highly resistant to current therapies. Despite recent improvements in the treatment of early-stage disease, CML blast crisis (CMLBC) remains a therapeutic challenge. CMLBC is highly refractory to standard induction chemotherapy, with a response rate in myeloid blast crisis of less than 30%. Conventional chemotherapy has been much less successful in this disease compared with de novo acute leukemia, with a mean survival after diagnosis of blast crisis of only 2 to 4 months for nonresponders. Many regimens of chemotherapies have been tried in CMLBC, with minor success. Although imatinib was evaluated in patients with CMLBC, most CMLBC cases today arise in patients already on imatinib-based therapy and developing blastic phase on that therapy; thus there is no standard therapy for patients with CMLBC. Further studies of the mechanisms of transformation of chronic-phase CMLBC at a molecu-lar level, and methods to target these molecular abnormalities, will determine the future direction of new treatment modalities. The prognosis of CML in blast crisis remains dis-appointing, despite great efforts. Currently, the most successful strategy for improving survival in CML is by prolonging the chronic phase and delaying the onset of blast crisis.