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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Version 1.2017


Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

About ALL

Figure 4

Normal versus

cancer cell growth

Normal cells divide to

make new cells as the

body needs them. Normal

cells die once they get

old or damaged. Cancer

cells make new cells that

aren’t needed and don’t

die quickly when old or


The abnormal lymphoblasts are called leukemia

cells. Leukemia cells differ from normal cells in a few

key ways. First, leukemia cells grow more quickly

and live longer than normal cells. They divide and

copy themselves to make more and more leukemia


See Figure 4.

The leukemia cells quickly fill

up the bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood

cells that the body needs.

Second, leukemia cells don’t grow into mature

lymphocytes the way they should. They stay as

young blast cells that don’t work well. They don’t help

fight infections in the body.

Third, leukemia cells can spill out of the bone marrow

into the bloodstream. They can then spread to other

parts of the body. They may collect in the spleen,

thymus, lymph nodes, liver, testicles, and the area

around the brain and spinal cord.

Healthy cell

Injured cell

Cell death

Normal cell growth

No cell death


cell growth

Cancer cell growth

Illustration Copyright © 2017 bNucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.