Timeline of leukemia

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This is a timeline of leukemia , describing especially major discoveries and advances in treatment against the disease.


Big picture

Year/periodKey developments
Prior to 1800Various cancers, including leukemia, are described in ancient Egyptian texts dating back to 3000 BC. Translations inform "large, protruding mass" or "thick blood" and describe the disease as "there is no treatment." This basic understanding of leukemia and cancer lasts for millennia. [1]
19th CenturyDiscovery of leukemia. Velpeau (1825), Donné (1844), Bennett (1845), Craigie (1845), Virchow (1845), and Fuller (1846), establish the possibility that sustained leukocytosis could occur in the absence of infection. The term leukemia is adopted to describe such conditions. [2] [3] [4] It is discovered that leukemia originates in the bone marrow. Histologic stains for microscopic study are introduced. [2]
1900sLeukemia is subdivided in four primary types: acute myeloid leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. [5] [6]
1940s–presentEra of chemotherapy development, also the first effective leukemia treatments with drugs introduced by Sidney Farber. [3] [7] [8] Childhood leukemia is thought to be on a constant rise in the 20th and 21st century. [9] In 2010, globally, approximately 281,500 people died of leukemia. [10] In 2000, approximately 256,000 children and adults around the world developed a form of leukemia, and 209,000 died from it. [11] DNA and genetic analysis have opened a new chapter in leukemia treatments. [9]

Full timeline

Evolution of new leukemia cases and deaths per 100,000 people in the United States for the period 1975-2013, according to the National Cancer Institute. Age-adjusted. Leukemia cases in the USA.png
Evolution of new leukemia cases and deaths per 100,000 people in the United States for the period 1975-2013, according to the National Cancer Institute. Age-adjusted.
Year/periodType of eventEventLocation
1749DiscoveryFrench physician Joseph Lieutaud first notes white cells, calling them globuli albicantes. [3]
1774DevelopmentEnglish surgeon William Hewson publishes work on the lymphatic system and first describes the lymphocyte. [3] United Kingdom
1811DevelopmentPeter Cullen defines a case of splenitis acutus with unexplainable milky blood. [13] Edinburgh, Scotland
1825DevelopmentFrench surgeon Alfred Velpeau defines the leukemia associated symptoms, and observes pus in the blood vessels. [13]
1844DiscoveryFrench bacteriologist Alfred Donné detects a maturation arrest of the white blood cells. [13]
1845DevelopmentEnglish physician John Bennett renames splenitis acutus to leucocythemia, based on the microscopic accumulation of purulent leukocytes. [13] [14]
1845–1847DevelopmentGerman physician Rudolf Virchow defines a reversed white and red blood cell balance. Virchow introduces the term leukemia for the disease (leukämie in German). [2] [13]
1868DiscoveryGerman pathologist Ernst Neumann reports changes in the bone marrow in leukaemia and establishes the link between the source of blood and the bone marrow. [3] Königsberg, Prussia
1877DevelopmentSwiss pathologist Paul Ehrlich develops methods for staining tissue, making possible to distinguish between different types of blood cells, thus leading to the capability to diagnose numerous blood diseases. [2] [3] [4] Germany
1879DevelopmentF. Mosler first describes the technique of bone marrow examination to diagnose leukemia. [4]
1889DevelopmentGerman physician Wilhelm Ebstein introduces the term acute leukemia to differentiate rapidly progressive and fatal leukemias from the more indolent chronic leukemias. [4] Prussia
1900DevelopmentSwiss hematologist Otto Naegeli refines the classification of leukemia by dividing it into myelogenous and lymphocytic classes. [2] [3] [4]
1946Organization Leukemia Research Foundation is established. It is dedicated to combating all blood cancers by funding research. [15] Northfield, Illinois, United States
1947DiscoveryAmerican pediatric pathologist Sidney Farber discovers that aminopterin can induce remissions in acute lymphocytic leukemia in children, leading to the development of a new category of chemotherapy drugs, called antimetabolites, that impair the ability of cancer cells to grow and replicate. It is considered the first effective leukemia treatment. [8]
1949Organization Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is founded. It is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services. [16] [17] Rye Brook, New York (serves the United States and Canada)
1949–1956DiscoveryResearchers discover ways to protect the body from radiation damage by shielding a mouse's spleen from radiation. Eventually, it is learned that the body recruits stem cells, which are found in the spleen and bone marrow, to protect and heal itself from radiation damage. [8]
1957DevelopmentResearchers report the first bone marrow transplantation for treating leukemia, although with poor results. It would not be until the late 1970s when marrow transplantation becomes successful due to tissue matching. [18] United States
1958DiscoveryScientists find that a combination of the drugs 6-mercaptopurine and methotrexate can reduce or eliminate cancer growth and extend survival in patients with leukemia. It is discovered that carefully honed drug combinations can attack cancer cells from different angles. [8] United States
1960–1969DiscoveryVarious studies show that the drug cytarabine (ara-C) has activity against leukemias and provides a major boost to combination chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia. [8]
1960DiscoveryResearchers identify a chromosomal abnormality linked to many leukemias. A decade later, it is discovered that this abnormality results when parts of chromosomes 9 and 22 switch places in a phenomenon called translocation. [8] Philadelphia, United States
1961DiscoveryResearchers demonstrate that drug vinblastine blocks a key protein involved in cancer cell division and induces some leukemias and lymphomas into remission. Vinblastine is approved by the FDA. [8] United States
1963Development Vincristine, a sister drug to vinblastine, is approved by the FDA. [8] United States
1965OrganizationThe International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is founded as an intergovernmental agency forming part of the World Health Organization of the United Nations. Its role is to conduct and coordinate research into the causes of cancer. [19] Lyon, France
1974Development Antibiotic doxorubicin is approved by the FDA to treat many cancer types, including some leukemias. Together with cytarabine, doxorubicin induces acute myeloid leukemia remissions by damaging the DNA of cancer cells. [8] United States
1977DiscoveryChemotherapy drug chlorambucil is found to slow the progression of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the second most common type of leukemia in adults. [8]
1980DiscoveryHuman T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-I) is identified. It is the first virus that causes cancer being discovered. [20] [21]
1982DiscoveryA large trial shows that using the anthracycline daunorubicin, in combination with cytarabine, is more effective at causing complete remissions of acute myeloid leukemia than the previously-standard drug, doxorubicin. [8]
1986OrganizationThe National Marrow Donor Program is established as a nonprofit organization. It operates the world's largest registry of unrelated adult donors and umbilical cord blood units, which contain stem cells that can help save the lives of some patients with blood-related cancers. [8] St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
1986–1989DiscoveryScientists find that occupational exposure to benzene is associated with increased risk of developing non-lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and other diseases. [8]
1988OrganizationThe José Carreras Leukaemia Foundation is founded by tenor José Carreras. It finances national and international scientific research projects, among other activities. [22] Barcelona, Spain (branches in United States, Switzerland and Germany)
1989Organization The Simon Flavell Leukaemia Research Laboratory is founded. It aims at supporting children and adults who have been diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma, and conducting research programmes into new antibody-based treatments. [23] [24] Southampton, United Kingdom
1990–1994Development Fludarabine is introduced, and proven effective for patients who do not respond to chlorambucil for treating leukemia. [8] [25]
1993Treatment Stem cell transplantation for treating leukemia is performed for the first time. [26] [27]
1995DiscoveryResearchers discover that Lymphocyte transfusions from a biologically matched, healthy donor to a patient with chronic myeloid leukemia can help drive the leukemia back into remission if the cancer returns after a previous stem cell or bone marrow transplant from the same donor. [8]
1995Discovery Tretinoin is found to cause remission in patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia. [8]
2000DiscoveryLarge clinical trial demonstrates that drug fludarabine, which was originally developed as a back-up therapy for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, works in more patients and produces longer lasting remissions than previous standard drug, chlorambucil. [8]
2001DiscoveryThe FDA approves imatinib after the drug is shown to halt the growth of chronic myelogenous leukemia in the majority of patients. [8] United States
2004–2006DevelopmentEpigenetic drugs azacytidine and decitabine are approved by the FDA to prevent cancer in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes, a group of blood disorders that predispose a person to acute myelogenous leukemia. [8] United States
2005DevelopmentFDA approves palifermin to reduce oral sores associated with chemotherapy in patients with blood cancers. [8]
2006Discovery Dasatinib is found to help as second targeted treatment for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia who cannot tolerate or develop resistance to imatinib. [8]
2008Development Acute Myeloid Leukemia becomes the first cancer genome to be fully sequenced. DNA is extracted from leukemic cells and compared to unaffected skin. Acquired mutations in several genes that have not previously been associated with the disease are found in leukemic cells. [4]
2011DiscoveryA large trial establishes that progression of chronic lymphocytic leukemia slows and survival improves after adding targeted drug rituximab to initial treatment with standard drug fludarabine. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Leukemia Group of blood cancers that usually begin in the bone marrow

Leukemia, also spelled leukaemia, is a group of blood cancers that usually begin in the bone marrow and result in high numbers of abnormal blood cells. These blood cells are not fully developed and are called blasts or leukemia cells. Symptoms may include bleeding and bruising, feeling tired, fever, and an increased risk of infections. These symptoms occur due to a lack of normal blood cells. Diagnosis is typically made by blood tests or bone marrow biopsy.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma A type of cancer of lymph-nodes

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a group of blood cancers that includes all types of lymphomas except Hodgkin lymphomas. Symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, weight loss and tiredness. Other symptoms may include bone pain, chest pain or itchiness. Some forms are slow-growing, while others are fast-growing.

Lymphoma Hematologic cancer that affects lymphocytes that reside in the lymphatic system and in blood-forming organs

Lymphoma is a group of blood malignancies that develop from lymphocytes. The name often refers to just the cancerous versions rather than all such tumours. Signs and symptoms may include enlarged lymph nodes, fever, drenching sweats, unintended weight loss, itching, and constantly feeling tired. The enlarged lymph nodes are usually painless. The sweats are most common at night.

Myelodysplastic syndrome Diverse collection of blood-related cancers that involve ineffective production of certain blood cells

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of cancers in which immature blood cells in the bone marrow do not mature, so do not become healthy blood cells. Early on, no symptoms typically are seen. Later, symptoms may include feeling tired, shortness of breath, easy bleeding, or frequent infections. Some types may develop into acute myeloid leukemia.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia lymphoblastic leukemia characterized by over production of B-cells and their accumulation in bone marrow and blood

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes. Early on there are typically no symptoms. Later non-painful lymph node swelling, feeling tired, fever, night sweats, or weight loss for no clear reason may occur. Enlargement of the spleen and low red blood cells (anemia) may also occur. It typically worsens gradually over years.

Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation Medical procedure to replace blood or immune stem cells

Hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) is the transplantation of multipotent hematopoietic stem cells, usually derived from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or umbilical cord blood. It may be autologous, allogeneic or syngeneic.

Tumors of the hematopoietic and lymphoid tissues tumor that affect the blood, bone marrow, lymph, and lymphatic system

Tumors of the hematopoietic and lymphoid tissues or tumours of the haematopoietic and lymphoid malignancies are tumors that affect the blood, bone marrow, lymph, and lymphatic system. Because these tissues are all intimately connected through both the circulatory system and the immune system, a disease affecting one will often affect the others as well, making myeloproliferation and lymphoproliferation closely related and often overlapping problems.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia Blood cancer characterised by overproduction of lymphoblasts

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of the lymphoid line of blood cells characterized by the development of large numbers of immature lymphocytes. Symptoms may include feeling tired, pale skin color, fever, easy bleeding or bruising, enlarged lymph nodes, or bone pain. As an acute leukemia, ALL progresses rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.

Myeloid sarcoma solid tumor composed of immature white blood cells[2] called myeloblasts.

A myeloid sarcoma, is a solid tumor composed of immature white blood cells called myeloblasts. A chloroma is an extramedullary manifestation of acute myeloid leukemia; in other words, it is a solid collection of leukemic cells occurring outside of the bone marrow.

Fludarabine chemical compound

Fludarabine, sold under the brand name Fludara among others, is a chemotherapy medication used in the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma. These include chronic lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, acute myeloid leukemia, and acute lymphocytic leukemia. It is given by injection into a vein or by mouth.

Lymphoid leukemias are a group of leukemias affecting circulating lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells. The lymphocytic leukemias are closely related to lymphomas of the lymphocytes, to the point that some of them are unitary disease entities that can be called by either name. Such diseases are all lymphoproliferative disorders. Most lymphoid leukemias involve a particular subtype of lymphocytes, the B cells.

Acute myeloid leukemia Cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal cells that build up in the bone marrow and blood and interfere with normal blood cell production. Symptoms may include feeling tired, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. Occasionally, spread may occur to the brain, skin, or gums. As an acute leukemia, AML progresses rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.

John Edgar Dick Canadian cancer researcher

John Edgar Dick is Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology, Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network and Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto in Canada. Dick is credited with first identifying cancer stem cells in certain types of human leukemia. His revolutionary findings highlighted the importance of understanding that not all cancer cells are the same and thus spawned a new direction in cancer research. Dick is also known for his demonstration of a blood stem cell's ability to replenish the blood system of a mouse, his development of a technique to enable an immune-deficient mouse to carry and produce human blood, and his creation of the world's first mouse with human leukemia.

CD135 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Cluster of differentiation antigen 135 (CD135) also known as fms like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT-3), receptor-type tyrosine-protein kinase FLT3, or fetal liver kinase-2 (Flk2) is a protein that in humans is encoded by the FLT3 gene. FLT3 is a cytokine receptor which belongs to the receptor tyrosine kinase class III. CD135 is the receptor for the cytokine Flt3 ligand (FLT3L).

Aggressive NK-cell leukemia Human disease

Aggressive NK-cell leukemia is a disease with an aggressive, systemic proliferation of natural killer cells and a rapidly declining clinical course.

B-cell prolymphocytic leukemia A neoplasm of prolymphocytes affecting the blood, bone marrow, and spleen. It is characterized by prolymphocytes exceeding 55% of the lymphoid cells in the blood and profound splenomegaly.

B-cell prolymphocytic leukemia, referred to as B-PLL, is a rare blood cancer. It is a more aggressive, but still treatable, form of leukemia.

Biphenotypic acute leukaemia (BAL) is an uncommon type of leukemia which arises in multipotent progenitor cells which have the ability to differentiate into both myeloid and lymphoid lineages. It is a subtype of "leukemia of ambiguous lineage".

Forodesine chemical compound

Forodesine is a transition-state analog inhibitor of purine nucleoside phosphorylase studied for the treatment of patients with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) and for treatment of B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia (B-ALL).

Oncology Branch of medicine dealing with cancer

Oncology is a branch of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. A medical professional who practices oncology is an oncologist. The name's etymological origin is the Greek word ὄγκος (óngkos), meaning 1. "burden, volume, mass" and 2. "barb", and the Greek word λόγος (logos), meaning "study".

Childhood leukemia leukemia that occurs in children

Childhood leukemia is leukemia that occurs in a child and is a type of childhood cancer. Childhood leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, accounting for 29% of cancers in children aged 0–14 in 2018. There are multiple forms of leukemia that occur in children, the most common being acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) followed by acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Survival rates vary depending on the type of leukemia, but may be as high as 90% in ALL.


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