Treating Cancer in Very High Risk Kids

Aggressive pediatric leukemia survival improved with intensive chemotherapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Remarkable progress has been made in treating childhood leukemia. Many kids who get these blood cancers will beat their disease and live normal lives. Progress is being made in treating a more aggressive and life-threatening form of pediatric leukemia.

Kids tend to live longer when additional intensive chemotherapy is used to treat a persistent form of leukemia. A new study looked at B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) which likes to reappear.

This disease is one of the most common cancers seen in kids under the age of 15.

"Learn about different chemotherapy regimens."

Researchers at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center in Boston worked with nearly 500 B-ALL patients who were younger than 18 years old.

“Pediatric patients with B-ALL traditionally receive a standard course of chemotherapy if their risk of relapse is low, and a slightly intensified course if their risk is higher,” said study lead author, Lynda Vrooman, MD, of Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center.

“In this study, we identified a new risk group – those with a very high risk of relapse – and studied the effect of a novel, even more intensive chemotherapy regimen on their outcome,” Dr. Vrooman said in a press release.

The youngsters in the study all had an initial round of chemotherapy, as is the standard. Bone marrow samples were collected after a month of therapy and analyzed. Researchers found that 35 patients had a lot of remaining leukemia cells. Another 16 had changes in certain chromosomes. As a result, these 51 patients were considered to be at very high risk of their cancers returning.

These children underwent additional rounds of chemotherapy. The first two rounds were intense and used chemo agents not usually used for B-ALL. Two additional rounds completed the regimen designed to keep the leukemia from coming back.

This study found that 76 percent of these treated patients didn’t see the leukemia return in five years. In contrast, only about half of the very high-risk kids who received standard chemo only didn’t have their cancers reappear.

Results from this study were presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference.

All research is considered preliminary before it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 11, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013