February 10, 2024

Leukemia And Iron Levels. What Do You Need to Know?

What is the relationship between leukemia and high iron levels? Wang, Lv, Zhao, and Zhou claim that changes in iron metabolism are a characteristic feature of the condition. (2019) This, in turn, impacts the development of the whole disease – iron overload may make developing leukemia more likely, while iron deficiency might weaken the immune system. Do you wish to learn more about this? Then we invite you to read this article.

Key Takeaways

  • Leukemia is a type of blood cancer and can come in four forms: acute lymphoid leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphoid leukemia, and chronic myeloid leukemia.
  • According to numerous studies, leukemia causes high iron levels. This makes it possible to find the first indicators of this condition in, for instance, blood tests.
  • The Testing blood isn’t enough to diagnose leukemia – if the iron levels are high, it’s good to conduct a bone marrow biopsy.
  • Some elements of leukemia treatment are focused on reducing iron levels. This may include using iron chelators, miRNAs, epigenetic control, or iron-based nanoparticles.

You may also read: Exploring Challenges and Opportunities in Smartphone-Based Rapid Diagnostic Test Interpretation

What Is Leukemia?

Before we discuss the correlation between high iron levels and leukemia, we need to explain what this condition is. Leukemia is a cancer of white blood cells that begins in the bone marrow. It can be classified based on the type of cells affected:

and the way this condition develops:

  • lymphoid (lymphocytes),
  • myeloid (myeloid cells),

and the way this condition develops:

  • acute (appears suddenly and grows quickly),
  • chronic (appears gradually and takes years to develop).

Therefore, in total we can distinguish four types of leukemia:

  • acute lymphoid leukemia,
  • chronic lymphoid leukemia,
  • acute myeloid leukemia,
  • chronic myeloid leukemia.

Leukemia and High Iron Levels

So, how do leukemia and high iron levels correlate? According to Manz et al., cancer cells have an increased iron uptake and may enhance intracellular iron by impacting the levels of ferritin – the iron-storage protein. (2016) This has been proven for different types of cancer tissues.
Moreover, as mentioned in the introduction, Wang et al. highlight that changes in iron levels are a characteristic sign of blood cancer. (2019) This underlines the importance of analyzing iron levels when diagnosing patients and the role of an iron-centered approach in leukemia treatment.

Diagnosing Leukemia in Regard to Iron Levels

The fact that leukemia causes iron levels to go higher is crucial, as this can be used for the sake of diagnosing the condition. Monitoring iron concentrations in the blood can help not only in identifying the diseases but also in evaluating the patient’s state, making a prognosis, and finding out whether the condition is aggressive or not.

Naturally, this is not the only way (or the most reliable one) to find out whether someone suffers from leukemia – the best option is always the bone marrow biopsy. However, since blood tests are the most common, frequent, and regular ones for patients, iron levels are the most effective tools to indicate that such a biopsy should be conducted.

How to diagnose leukemia and high iron levels effectively? What should you include when monitoring patients with this condition? Here, we recommend our mobile-based solution, which enables you to test your patient’s blood conveniently and remotely due to the use of AI and mobile devices. This is an effective way to conduct more tests without making it too much of a nuisance for the patient, thus increasing their satisfaction. See what tests we scan and discover how we can help you provide your patients with a better treatment.

Treating Leukemia by Reducing Iron Levels

As Wang et al. point out, leukemia treatment also involves reducing the high iron levels and leading to iron depletion that should kill the disease (2019). This includes using iron chelators and mechanisms deemed as “new,” such as:

  • MicroRNAs (miRNAs) – Altering the miRNAs that were deregulated by the cancer to control iron metabolism.
  • Epigenetic control – Changing the ways genes are turned on or off without altering the underlying DNA sequence. In terms of treating leukemia, this method includes, for instance, silencing the FPN-1 responsible for iron transport. (Manz et al., 2016)
  • Iron-based nanoparticles – Researchers are increasingly focusing on using iron-based nanoparticles as a potential therapy for cancer. These nanoparticles, made of iron oxide, have been found to trigger programmed cell death (apoptosis) and halt the cell cycle in certain types of leukemia cells. Additionally, the nanoparticles can release iron in forms like Fe2+ or Fe3+, participating in the Fenton reaction, which induces a type of cell death called ferroptosis. (Wang et al., 2019)

You may also read about melatonin and iron levels.
Manz, D. H., Blanchette, N. L., Paul, B. T., Torti, F. M., & Torti, S. V. (2016). Iron and cancer: Recent insights. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1368(1), 149. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13008

Wang, Fang & Lv, Huanhuan & Zhao, Bin & Zhou, Liangfu & Wang, Shenghang & Luo, Jie & Liu, Junyu & Shang, Peng. (2019). Iron and leukemia: New insights for future treatments. Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research. 38. 10.1186/s13046-019-1397-3.