ALL (also called acute lymphocytic leukemia) is an aggressive type of leukemia characterized by the presence of too many lymphoblasts or lymphocytes in the bone marrow and peripheral blood. It can spread to the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, central nervous system (CNS), and other organs. Without treatment, ALL usually progresses quickly.
Signs and symptoms of ALL may include the following:
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Bruises or bleeds easily (i.e., bleeding gums, purplish patches in the skin, or petechiae [flat, pinpoint spots under the skin]).
Shortness of breath.
Unexpected weight loss or anorexia.
Pain in the bones or joints.
Swollen lymph nodes, particularly lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin, which are usually painless.
Swelling or discomfort in the abdomen.
ALL occurs in both children and adults. It is the most common type of cancer in children, and treatment results in a good chance for a cure. For adults, the prognosis is not as optimistic. This summary discusses ALL in adults. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment for more information about ALL in children.)
Incidence and Mortality
Estimated new cases and deaths from ALL in the United States in 2014:
New cases: 6,020.
Children (aged 0–14 years) cases: 2,670 (26% of common cancers in children).
Adolescents (aged 15–19 years) cases: 410 (8% of common cancers in adolescents).
ALL presumably arises from malignant transformation of B- or T-cell progenitor cells. It is more commonly seen in children, but can occur at any age. The disease is characterized by the accumulation of lymphoblasts in the marrow or in various extramedullary sites, frequently accompanied by suppression of normal hematopoiesis. B- and T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia cells express surface antigens that parallel their respective lineage developments. Precursor B-cell ALL cells typically express CD10, CD19, and CD34 on their surface along, with nuclear terminal deoxynucleotide transferase (TdT), while precursor T-cell ALL cells commonly express CD2, CD3, CD7, CD34, and TdT.
Blood cell development. A blood stem cell goes through several steps to become a red blood cell, platelet, or white blood cell.