Chronic neutrophilic leukemia

Chronic neutrophilic leukemia (CNL) is a rare myeloproliferative neoplasm. It causes the body to make too many neutrophils in the bone marrow. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that help defend the body against bacteria, viruses and types of fungus.

There is no known cause for chronic neutrophilic leukemia. It hasn’t been linked to a specific chromosome or genetic abnormality.

Chronic neutrophilic leukemia usually progresses slowly and may stay the same for many years. In some people, it changes quickly into acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).


Chronic neutrophilic leukemia may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages.

Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as chronic neutrophilic leukemia. See your doctor if you have these symptoms:

  • discomfort or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen (if the liver and spleen are enlarged)
  • tiredness
  • a general feeling of discomfort or illness (called malaise)
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • sore throat


Diagnosing chronic neutrophilic leukemia usually begins with a visit to your family doctor or when a routine blood test suggests a problem with the blood. Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you have and do a physical exam to check if your spleen or liver is enlarged. Based on this information, your doctor will order tests to check for chronic neutrophilic leukemia or other health problems.

Diagnostic tests include:

  • complete blood count (CBC) to measure the number and quality of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets
  • blood chemistry tests to check how well certain organs are working
  • bone marrow aspiration and biopsy to determine if you have leukemia or a type of blood disorder

Find out more about these tests and procedures.


Chronic neutrophilic leukemia is rare and it can develop differently in different people. It can be stable for many years and then quickly change into AML. As a result, there is no standard treatment plan for chronic eosinophilic leukemia. Your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you.

You may be offered one or more of the following treatments.

Drug therapy

Drugs may be used to improve blood cell counts or lessen symptoms. The following drugs may be used to treat chronic neutrophilic leukemia:

  • hydroxyurea (Hydrea) – the most commonly given chemotherapy drug
  • interferon alfa (Intron A, Wellferon)

For more information on certain drugs, go to sources of drug information.


Surgery to remove the spleen (called splenectomy) may be done if an enlarged spleen is causing pain.

Stem cell transplant

A stem cell transplant may be a treatment option for some people with chronic neutrophilic leukemia. Most people with chronic neutrophilic leukemia are older, so they may not benefit from a stem cell transplant.


Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for chronic eosinophilic leukemia is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists) or blood specialists (hematologists) and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away.

Expert review and references