Double hazard of thrombophilia and bleeding in leukemia.

Hau C. Kwaan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The association between thrombosis and cancer has been extensively studied since first pointed out by Trousseau in 1895. It is, however, not commonly appreciated that the incidence of thrombosis in malignant hematologic disorders is as high or even higher than in solid tumors. Thrombotic complications in acute leukemia are often overlooked because bleeding complications generally dominate the clinical picture. Yet, the patient is at risk for both. While there are many thrombogenic factors shared by both solid tumors and leukemia, many additional prothrombotic features are present in leukemia. The prothrombotic factors include hyperleukocytosis, increased expression of tissue factor and its activation in leukemic cells, and the prothrombotic adverse effects of therapeutic agents and vascular access catheters. In addition, comorbid conditions including hereditary thrombophilia, infection, endothelial cell activation by cytokines, antiphospholipid syndrome and acquired activated protein C resistance are major contributory factors. Factors that increase the bleeding risk include thrombocytopenia, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and excessive fibrinolysis, which is enhanced by increased expression of Annexin II by leukemic cells. Therapeutic approaches to both bleeding and thrombotic conditions require special considerations of these factors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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