AML vs. ALL

Last Modified: November 17, 2002

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My brother-in-law has been diagnosed with leukemia. Unfortunately, they have been unable to verify which one. They have done two bone marrow biopsies and several chromosome studies but can't conclusively say AML or ALL (although they are leaning toward AML). Is it possible to have both? 

Answer

Selina M. Luger, MD, Director of the Leukemia Program and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

It is sometimes difficult to figure out if leukemia is AML or ALL. Various tests are used to make a definitive diagnosis. However, some acute leukemias don't have features of either and some have features of both. In addition to looking at the cells and doing chromosome studies, we usually also do testing called flow cytometry which may be helpful.