Chronic myelogenous leukemia

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Survival statistics for chronic myelogenous leukemia

Survival statistics for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for CML and what they mean to you.

Treatments and survival

The goal of treatments for CML is to bring about a complete remission, which means that the blood cell counts have returned to normal and stay at or near normal levels for long periods of time. The only treatment known to bring about a complete remission or cure in CML is high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant. This treatment is very intense and can cause serious side effects, so some people may not be able to have it. Other treatments slow the progression of CML, but do not bring about a complete remission.

New drugs (tyrosine kinase inhibitors, TKIs)  that are highly effective in treating most cases of CML became available in 2001. These drugs include imatinib (Gleevec), dasatinib (Sprycel) and nilotinib (Tasigna). Because they are new, there is no accurate research on survival rates with these drugs. But people who have been on these drugs since 2001 are still alive. Studies have found that about 90% of people treated with imatinib (Gleevec) were still alive after 5 years. Most of these people had no signs of leukemia such as abnormal chromosomes and white blood cell count. It's not clear whether or not they have been cured. Longer follow-up is still needed.

Observed survival

Observed survival is the proportion of people with a particular cancer who are alive at a certain point in time after their diagnosis.

The observed survival for CML following stem cell transplant can be longer than 10 years.

The 5-year observed survival for CML is greater than 90% when it is treated with imatinib.

Questions about survival

If you have CML, talk to your doctor about your prognosis. Prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your medical history
  • type of cancer
  • stage
  • characteristics of the cancer
  • treatments chosen
  • response to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.


Dr Shawn Li I’m extremely grateful to the Canadian Cancer Society for funding my research with an Innovation Grant.

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Making progress in the cancer fight

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The 5-year cancer survival rate has increased from 25% in the 1940s to 60% today.

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