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Leukemia Treatment for International Patients

Mass General Brigham provides the latest treatments and offers highly promising clinical trials for all leukemias and related blood disorders. We are known internationally for our expertise in all aspects of diagnosis and care for newly diagnosed and relapsed leukemia patients. We are home to a bone marrow transplant program that allows us to offer innovative transplantation and post-transplant approaches to treat leukemia.

Female patient with provider in exam room

Our leukemia expertise

Leukemia is a type of cancer that arises when immature white blood cells proliferate uncontrollably and spread through the marrow and bloodstream. The most common leukemias are:   

  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), in which the malignant cancer cell is of a myeloid (a type of white cell) lineage. AML is the most common form of acute leukemia affecting adults, with a challenging course and prognosis.  
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), in which the bone marrow and organs of the lymph system make too many lymphoid cells (a type of white blood cell). ALL too has a challenging prognosis among adult patients.  
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), is a chronic, more slowly progressive leukemia, in which the bone marrow makes too many cells of myeloid lineage.  

A bone marrow biopsy, in which a tissue sample is taken from the bone marrow and analyzed for cancer cells, is key to detecting leukemia. The hematopathologists at Mass General Brigham are world-renowned for their expertise in leukemia diagnosis. They bring high-volume experience in conducting biopsies and have access to state-of-the-art technologies that facilitate the diagnostic process.  

Depending on the type of leukemia, blood tests, blood and marrow microscopic examination, and cytogenetic and mutational analyses (which assess changes in the genetic material inside of leukemia cells) will be conducted to confirm the subtype.

Leukemia treatment options

As a patient at Mass General Brigham, you will have a skilled team of cancer specialists that coordinates all aspects of your care. Every case of leukemia is unique, as is every patient's needs and preferences. We will work with you and your family to develop a treatment plan to address your particular clinical presentation.  

At Mass General Brigham, you will find all the latest treatments for leukemia. Determining which will give you the best chance at a successful outcome depends on a variety of factors, including your type of leukemia, disease stage, your age and your overall health. Your care team may recommend one or more of the following approaches.

ALL or AML can be treated with chemotherapy and is managed by medical oncologists. This involves the use of intravenous or oral drugs to destroy leukemia cells. Aggressive chemotherapy for ALL usually requires several months of chemotherapy, some of which is given in the hospital. Aggressive therapy for AML usually requires several weeks in the hospital. Each of the medical hematologists/oncologists at Mass General Brigham has a high level of sub-specialization in treating their particular type of cancer.

Targeted therapy is a form of personalized medicine in which a drug is chosen based on the specific genetic mutation or alteration found in your own cells. The goal is to block the action of an abnormal protein in leukemia cells, inhibiting their ability to grow.

Bone marrow transplant, used as a treatment for leukemias, may involve using stem cells from your own body (autologous transplant) or from a donor (allogeneic transplant). With autologous transplant, stem cells from your bone marrow are collected and stored, administered high-dose chemotherapy and then returned to your body through an infusion. With allogeneic transplants, healthy stem cells usually come from a family member, volunteer donors, or blood saved from an umbilical cord. Our bone marrow transplant program brings high-volume expertise in both procedures and is advancing the field through clinical trials and other research studies.

Immunotherapy harnesses the power of your own immune system to find and attack cancer cells. CAR T-cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy that involves engineering T-cells (a type of white blood cells) for this purpose. It is one of the newest, most promising treatments for leukemia of certain types — and one of the many state-of-the-art cancer therapies available at Mass General Brigham. Learn more about CAR T-cell therapy.

A team of leukemia experts behind you 

Meet Mass General Brigham's multidisciplinary team of leukemia experts.

Leukemia care for international patients 

Each year, thousands of patients from more than 120 countries travel to Mass General Brigham for medical care, second opinions and treatments unavailable anywhere else in the world.  

Mass General Brigham cancer teams are experienced in caring for leukemia patients who are traveling great distances to our hospitals in Boston. Your cancer team here and our international patient services team will help you prepare for and plan the appropriate amount of time to stay in Boston for your appointments, treatments and any recovery time. During this recovery time in Boston or back home in your country, our clinical team will monitor your well-being and progressions to continuously optimize your treatment plan and symptoms. 

Many of our international patients have questions about everything from travel and lodging to scheduling appointments. Our international patient services team is here to help. We look forward to making your Mass General Brigham experience as healing and stress-free as possible.

Our Work in Leukemia and Lymphoma Care

Jeremy Abramson, MD, is a lymphoma and leukemia physician at Mass General Brigham. He is also an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.