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International journal of environmental research and public health

Leukemia and benzene.


PMID 23066403

Abstract

Excessive exposure to benzene has been known for more than a century to damage the bone marrow resulting in decreases in the numbers of circulating blood cells, and ultimately, aplastic anemia. Of more recent vintage has been the appreciation that an alternative outcome of benzene exposure has been the development of one or more types of leukemia. While many investigators agree that the array of toxic metabolites, generated in the liver or in the bone marrow, can lead to traumatic bone marrow injury, the more subtle mechanisms leading to leukemia have yet to be critically dissected. This problem appears to have more general interest because of the recognition that so-called "second cancer" that results from prior treatment with alkylating agents to yield tumor remissions, often results in a type of leukemia reminiscent of benzene-induced leukemia. Furthermore, there is a growing literature attempting to characterize the fine structure of the marrow and the identification of so called "niches" that house a variety of stem cells and other types of cells. Some of these "niches" may harbor cells capable of initiating leukemias. The control of stem cell differentiation and proliferation via both inter- and intra-cellular signaling will ultimately determine the fate of these transformed stem cells. The ability of these cells to avoid checkpoints that would prevent them from contributing to the leukemogenic response is an additional area for study. Much of the study of benzene-induced bone marrow damage has concentrated on determining which of the benzene metabolites lead to leukemogenesis. The emphasis now should be directed to understanding how benzene metabolites alter bone marrow cell biology.