Preventing Children's Cancers From Returning

Leukemias in young people now even more curable

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

(RxWiki News) Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) used to be one of the deadliest cancers for children and young adults. Now it's one of the most curable, and cures rates are climbing.

Changing the way chemotherapy is given to children and young adults is helping keep ALL from returning. The new method involves giving higher doses of the standard chemotherapy medication - methotrexate.

"New chemotherapy regimen helps prevent childhood leukemia from returning."

ALL is usually treated with methotrexate and a cocktail of three other chemotherapy drugs in method called the Capizzi regimen. Treatment starts with low doses of methotrexate that gradually increase over time.

While this therapy is effective in keeping ALL from returning to the bone marrow, it doesn't work well in keeping the disease from recurring in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

To find ways to prevent ALL from returning ot the CNS, researchers compared the effects of using higher doses (50 times higher) with the standard Capizzi regimen. Study participants had been newly diagnosed with ALL and ranged in age from one to 30.

Five years after the study, researchers found that 82 percent of those who had received the high-dose treatment did not have a recurrence. This compared to 75 percent of disease-free survival in participants who received the standard therapy.

Additionally, those who received the new regimen experienced fewer bone marrow recurrences and fevers.

Eric C. Larsen, MD, Director of the Maine Children’s Cancer Program and the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland says, as a result of this study, all young people newly diagnosed with ALL will receive this new regimen.

Findings from this study were reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2011 annual meeting.

According to the American Cancer Society roughly 4,000 people are diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia every year in the United States. It is the most common type of leukemia in young children, but can also affect adults.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 5, 2011
Last Updated:
November 8, 2012