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Difference Between Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a type of leukemia where B cells are affected. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia affects progenitor stem cells in the bone marrow.

What is Chronic lymphocytic leukemia?


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a form of leukemia where the B lymphocytes are affected.

Causes and prevalence:

The exact cause is unknown but CLL may have a genetic component. This cancer starts in the bone marrow with abnormal B cells being formed. The cancer is slow-growing but it eventually causes too many B lymphocytes to be formed. CLL is the most prevalent of all types of leukemias.


In the beginning of the illness there are no symptoms, but as the condition worsens symptoms appear. Symptoms include the following: tiredness, weight loss, feeling weak, night sweats, loss of appetite, and swollen lymph nodes (especially in the neck). 


Patients with CLL may end up with an enlarged liver and spleen, and may catch many infections. Patients may eventually die from the cancer or one of the infections they catch due to their weakened immune system.


Diagnosis of CLL is by a complete blood cell count. A patient will show a high white blood cell count and a high number of abnormal B cells. The number of lymphocytes in a blood sample are often > 5000/mcL, and many of these are clonal B cells. 


Treatment options for CLL vary but may include radiation therapy, chemoimmunotherapy, and targeted therapy. Sometimes transfusions of platelets or red blood cells are needed by patients. Infections can be treated with antimicrobial medications.

What is Acute lymphoblastic leukemia?


Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a type of leukemia that develops rapidly and affects the progenitor cells of either B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes. 

Causes and prevalence:

This cancer is caused by genetic mutations that affect some of the blood stem cells. The blood stem cells are those cells that develop into other types of blood cells that the body needs. ALL is the most common cancer of children. There are about 3.7 to 4.9 cases of ALL per 100,000 children diagnosed each year. 


The symptoms of ALL include the following: anemia, easy bruising, bleeding from the gums, and feeling tired. Patients may also show other signs such as appearing very pale, feeling dizzy, having night sweats, losing their appetite, and catching frequent infections.


Many complications can occur as a result of ALL, including uncontrolled bleeding, infections, kidney failure, and death.


Diagnosis can be made by blood tests, looking at a complete blood cell count and also noticing under the microscope that there are blast cells evident and low numbers of white and red blood cells and platelets. The low blood platelet count is also known as thrombocytopenia. Specific white blood cells that are usually very low in number in patients with ALL are the neutrophils and granulocytes. A bone marrow biopsy will also show more than 25% of the cells being blast cells. Blast cells are the immature stem cells that are supposed to develop into mature and fully functional cells.


Treatment depends on the type of ALL and may include one or more different therapies. Patients may be given tyrosine kinase inhibitor, and they may undergo chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplant. Patients may require blood transfusions to replace lost red blood cells and platelets.

Difference between Chronic lymphocytic leukemia and Acute lymphoblastic leukemia?


CLL is a type of leukemia with abnormal malignant B cells. ALL is leukemia affecting the stem cells of either B or T cells.

Age groups(s) affected

It is mostly adults (rarely children) who are affected by CLL. It is mainly children under 15 or adults over 45 affected by ALL; the commonest group affected by ALL is teenagers.


Symptoms of CLL include fever, night sweats, weight loss, no appetite, swollen lymph nodes, and glands. Symptoms of ALL include night sweats, fever, no appetite, easy bruising, bleeding gums, fatigue, dizziness, low blood platelets and low blood cell counts.


CLL can lead to infections and death. ALL can lead to infections, bleeding, kidney failure, and death.


In the case of CLL, survival at 5 years is 87%. In the case of ALL, survival at 5 years is 68%.

Table comparing Chronic lymphocytic leukemia and Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Summary of Chronic lymphocytic leukemia Vs. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

  • CLL and ALL are both cancers that affect the blood cells.
  • While CLL is more common among adults, ALL is more common among children.
  • Both these forms of leukemia can lead to infection and death.


Is acute lymphoblastic and lymphocytic the same?

When referring to leukemia, acute lymphoblastic and lymphocytic refer to the same condition.

Is chronic lymphoblastic leukemia the same as chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Lymphoblastic leukemia is used to refer to acute forms of leukemia and not chronic forms of the condition.

Is acute lymphoid leukemia the same as acute lymphocytic leukemia?

Yes, acute lymphoid leukemia refers to the same illness as acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Which is worse acute or chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Acute lymphocytic leukemia is worse because it develops rapidly and has a lower survival rate than chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Can CLL become acute leukemia?

It is rare, but CLL can become acute leukemia.

How bad is CLL leukemia?

It depends on the stage at diagnosis but many patients can live longer with treatment. Up to 87% can live 5 more years.

Can CLL become aggressive?

CLL can sometimes become aggressive and develop into a condition called Richter’s syndrome.

Does CLL leukemia run in families?

You are more likely to develop CLL if you have family members who had it, but most cases are not due to hereditary.

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References :

[0]Bosch, Francesc, and Riccardo Dalla-Favera. "Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia: from genetics to treatment." Nature reviews Clinical oncology 16.11 (2019): 684-701.

[1]Emadi, Ashkan and Jennie York Law. “Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)(Acute lymphocytic leukemia)”. Merckmanuals. Merck & Co., 2022, https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/leukemias/acute-lymphoblastic-leukemia-all

[2]Emadi, Ashkan and Jennie York Law. “Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)”. Merckmanuals. Merck & Co., 2022, https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/leukemias/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia-cll

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