Leukemia Treatment Program

The Center for Leukemia at the Mass General Cancer Center provides treatment for all types and stages of leukemia and related disorders, including: acute lymphoblastic leukemia; acute myelogeneous leukemia; chronic myelogenous leukemia; lymphoblastic lymphoma; myelodysplasia; myelofibrosis and other myeloproliferative neoplasms.
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Our program is internationally known for its level of expertise in all areas of diagnosis and care, access to clinical trials, and state-of-the-art transfusion and blood product support.

Among our key distinguishing factors are:

  • Consultations with leading hematopathologists (doctors who examine tissue samples) 
  • Access to the Mass General Bone Marrow Transplant Program and to innovative therapies such as: 
  • umbilical cord blood transplantation and
  • mismatched family member transplants
  • Affiliation with the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Technology to increase understanding of different types of leukemia at the stem cell level
  • Innovative care for newly diagnosed and relapsed patients
  • Compassionate and personalized care for all patients

Multidisciplinary Patient Care

Every patient treated at the Center for Leukemia has a team of specialists that coordinates every aspect of his or her care. Leukemia is treated, in most cases, with chemotherapy alone, managed by medical oncologists.  The medical hematologists/oncologists at the Center for Leukemia each have a high level of sub-specialization. Patients are matched with hematologists/oncologists who have distinct expertise in treating their particular type of cancer. The Center for Leukemia is closely affiliated with the Bone Marrow Transplantation Program, where innovative techniques such as umbilical cord blood transfusion and the ability to conduct a transplant with a mismatched family donor offer more options to patients.

Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Cancers

Effective treatment and good outcomes depend on an accurate diagnosis.  The hematopathologists at the Center for Leukemia are world-renowned for their expertise in the diagnosis of various types of leukemia. Due to its reputation, our pathology department examines a large number of tissue samples. This amount enables each pathologist to develop a specialized knowledge, keep up-to-date on new research, and offer second opinions.

The pathology department has state-of-the art technology, including:

  • Advanced microscopy with the highest level of magnification available
  • Flow cytometry technology that allows for the detection of minimal residual disease
  • A broad range of histochemical analyses
  • Cytogenetics technologies that examine the chromosomes of cells from samples of peripheral blood, bone marrow, or lymph nodes
  • Molecular evaluation techniques of cancer cells that deliver more precise diagnoses and offer new options for treatment.

Meet the Team

Our Leukemia Team

Our Leukemia Team

Every patient treated at the Center for Leukemia has a multidisciplinary team of specialists that coordinates every aspect of his or her care. The leukemia team is headed by Karen Ballen, MD, and includes both Medical Oncologists and Pathologists.

Karen Ballen, MD

Karen Ballen, MD
Clinical Director, Leukemia Program





See the complete team list treating Leukemia.


Patient Education

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of cancer in which certain white blood cells grow out of control and spread through the blood stream.  These white blood cells are made in the bone marrow.  Bone marrow is the spongy material in the center of bones where our blood cells are formed.  The leukemia blood cells are not normal and cannot do their usual work.  They also interfere with other blood cells working properly.  There are four main types of Leukemia that are grouped and named by:

  • Whether it is Acute (fast growing) or Chronic (slow growing). 
    o Acute leukemia grows rapidly
    o Chronic leukemia grows slowly
  • The type of white blood cell that is affected (called a myeloid cell or a lymphoid cell)

The four most common types of Leukemia are called:

Learn more about leukemia.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies of new drugs, new combinations of drugs or already approved drugs being studied to treat patients in new/different ways. They may include new drug doses or new ways (schedules) to give the drugs. Clinical trials are run under strict guidelines. Their purpose is to help find out whether new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard (current) treatment. At Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, there are several clinical trials open for the treatment of leukemia that use the latest in cancer treatments.

Cancer is increasingly becoming a disease in which the genetic make-up of each individual cancer drives therapy. The Center for Leukemia also has access to clinical trials involving these targeted therapy approaches.

Find listings of our current clinical trials for leukemia.

Find targeted therapy trials for leukemia.


If you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our physicians, please call the Center for Leukemia at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center at 617 724 1124. You can speak to a senior Leukemia physician 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week by calling Dr. Karen Ballen at 617-724-5700 beeper 31343.

Request an Appointment

Talk to an access nurse today 877-789-6100

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