What are the treatment options for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)?

There are four phases of treatment for ALL:
 
  • Induction therapy: aims to destroy the majority of the cancer cells in the bone marrow
  • Consolidation therapy: the goal of this phase is to kill the remaining cancer cells 
  • Maintenance therapy: prevents the production of more cancer cells
  • Preventive treatment to the spinal cord: aims to prevent cancer from spreading to the brain and spinal cord
*The completion of all four stages usually spans 2-3 years*
 
Children tend to respond more positively to treatment while adults over the age of 60 typically have a harder time with more adverse effects. 
 
 
Common treatment methods for ALL include:
 
  • Chemotherapy drugs are either injected or taken orally and go through the blood stream to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is given in phases with built in breaks to allow the body time to rest. With ALL, chemotherapy treatment usually lasts approximately 2 years. 
  • Radiation therapy uses x-rays or other forms of radiation to damage the DNA of cancer cells. If the ALL has spread to the brain or spinal cord, radiation therapy can be helpful in treating it.
  • Targeted drug therapy: Drugs that target specific parts of the leukemia cells are used. The “Philadelphia chromosome” is a DNA alteration that is sometimes found in the cells of people with ALL. Certain drugs may be used to destroy the cells that contain this alteration. This treatment may also be used as an adjunct to chemotherapy.
  • Stem cell transplants may be indicated when higher doses of chemotherapy are used. Since higher doses of chemotherapy could cause long-term destruction/harm to the bone marrow, stem cell transplants are used to bring back healthy, functioning bone marrow.
  • Clinical trials: ALL patients may have the opportunity to partake in new and experimental cancer treatments as new research is conducted.  
 
acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treatment
 
 

Sources:
  • "Acute lymphocytic leukemia." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 28 Jul. 2017.
  • “Treating Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.” American Cancer Society, 2 Dec. 2014. Web. 28. Jul. 2017.
  • “Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).” Cleveland Clinic, 23 Jul. 2012. Web. 28 Jul. 2017.

 

From Our Blog: Bone Marrow Donation Process - The Gift of a Lifetime
If you are interested in becoming a bone marrow donor, this infographic should give you a general idea of what the process entails:
 
bone marrow donation process - the gift of a lifetime

 

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