Chemotherapy related leukemogenesis

D. Meytes, B. Ramot

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3 Scopus citations


Administration of aggressive chemotherapy to patients with cancer has considerably improved their outlook for effective palliation or cure. However, a hitherto unappreciated complication consisting of a secondary malignancy, in particular acute leukemia, has emerged. Prolonged thrapy with alkylating agents and chemotherapy plus radiotherapy are associated with an increased risk of this complication. The disease evolves through a preleukemic phase of pancytopenia and sideroblastic refractory anemia. The median onset from the initiation of chemotherapy is about 5 years with an increasing incidence with time. Myelomonocytic, monocytic and erythroleukemia with atypical features and resistance to conventional therapy predominate. Hyploidy and aberrations involving chromosomes 5 and 7 are frequent. Alkylating agents are carcinogenic in laboratory animals. Although the pathway to leukemogenesis in humans is unknown, a multistep evolution is envisaged. This involves: 1) initiation through induction of errors in DNA, 2) promotion related to stem cell replication following chemotherapy-induced aplasia and 3) propagation related to immunosuppression. It is possible that, as in myeloproliferative disorders, an underlying tendency for leukemia is present in patients with cancer. This may be accentuated by chemotherapy, and more frequently observed due to the longer survival of such patients. The crucial role of chemotherapy in leukemogenesis is evident from data accumulated in non-malignant conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-20
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue numberSuppl. 6
StatePublished - 1983
Externally publishedYes


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