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Factors in Pathogenesis of Central-nervous-system Leukaemia

Br Med J 1972; 3 doi: (Published 05 August 1972) Cite this as: Br Med J 1972;3:311
  1. R. J. West,
  2. J. Graham-Pole,
  3. R. M. Hardisty,
  4. M. C. Pike


    Eighty-three (50%) of 165 children with acute lymphoblastic or acute stem-cell leukaemia presenting during 1958-70 developed leukaemia of the central nervous system (C.N.S.). The rate of incidence of this complication is fairly constant throughout the first two-and-a-half years of the disease, but falls thereafter. The incidence of C.N.S. leukaemia is inversely correlated with the platelet count at the time of initial diagnosis of leukaemia, and directly correlated with the total leucocyte count and the presence of lymph-node enlargement. The major effect of initial leucocyte count is on the time of onset of clinical symptoms. It is suggested that leukaemic cells usually enter the C.N.S. from the blood as a result of intracranial petechial haemorrhage occurring around the time of initial diagnosis of leukaemia, and that the time for subsequent development of symptoms of C.N.S. disease is largely determined by the number and replication rate of leukaemic cells which gain access to the C.N.S. at that time. The increasing frequency of diagnosis of C.N.S. leukaemia in recent years is not wholly explained by increasing survival, and may in part be related to changes in the pattern of antileukaemic therapy.

    Prophylaxis for C.N.S. leukaemia should be instituted as early as practicable after diagnosis; the identification of a high-risk group may permit this to be done selectively.