How is pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treated?

Updated: Jan 02, 2019
  • Author: Vikramjit S Kanwar, MBBS, MBA, MRCP(UK), FAAP; Chief Editor: Jennifer Reikes Willert, MD  more...
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Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a systemic disease, and treatment is primarily based on chemotherapy. Thus, surgical care is generally not required in the treatment of ALL, except for the placement of a central venous catheter for administering chemotherapy, blood products, and antibiotics, and for obtaining blood samples.

Different forms of ALL require different approaches for optimal results, nevertheless ALL treatment typically consists of a remission-induction phase, intensification (consolidation) phase, and continuation therapy targeted at eliminating residual disease. Central Nervous system (CNS) directed therapy is critical for improved survival rates. The addition of cyclophosphamide and asparaginase is also beneficial in the treatment of T-cell ALL. Mature B-cell ALL needs to be treated like disseminated Burkitt lymphoma, with short-term intensive chemotherapy, including high-dose methotrexate (MTX), cytarabine, and cyclophosphamide over a 6-month period. Because of the use of MTX, avoid folate supplementation.

Initially transfer children to a facility in which they can be in the care of a pediatric oncologist, preferably a center that participates in multi-institutional clinical trials. Immediately admit any patient who is neutropenic and who develops chills or fever to administer intravenous (IV) broad-spectrum antibiotics. Frequent hospitalizations may be required to deal with complications of ALL therapy, including the need for blood transfusions or antibiotics.

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