Purpose of review: Recent studies indicate that the risk of thrombosis in hematologic patients may be similar or even higher than that found in patients with solid tumors. However, available information about pathogenesis and incidence of thrombosis in acute leukemia is limited. This review focuses on mechanisms underlying thrombosis in acute leukemia and discusses recent literature data.
Recent findings: In the last few years, proofs have been provided that leukemic cells release free prothrombotic products, such as micro-vesicles, tissue factors, circulating free DNA and RNA. Furthermore, leukemic blasts can activate the procoagulant population of platelets, which initiate and amplify coagulation, causing thrombosis. In addition to factors produced by acute leukemia itself, others concur to trigger thrombosis. Some drugs, infections and insertion of central venous catheter have been described to increase risk of thrombosis in patients with acute leukemia.
Summary: Thrombosis represents a serious complication in patients affected by myeloid and lymphoid acute leukemia. A proper knowledge of its pathophysiology and of the predisposing risk factors may allow to implement strategies of prevention. Improving prevention of thrombosis appears a major goal in patients whose frequent conditions of thrombocytopenia impede an adequate delivery of anticoagulant therapy.