Acute lymphocytic leukemia

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), also referred to as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is a type of fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow (the spongy tissue inside certain bones that produces blood cells).

Adults with ALL are typically treated in three phases:

  1. Induction is designed to kill leukemia cells and put the cancer into remission (absence of disease activity).
  2. Consolidation, also referred to as intensification or post-remission therapy, is designed to destroy any leftover, inactive leukemia cells that might regrow and cause a relapse.
  3. Maintenance is designed to prevent any new leukemia cells from growing.

Different treatments or combinations of treatments may be used in each phase. Standard treatments for ALL include traditional chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and stem cell transplantation. In special circumstances, radiation therapy and surgery also may be used. In addition, because standard chemotherapy may not reach the brain and spinal cord, your doctor may treat the leukemia cells in those areas with treatment known as central nervous system prophylaxis. This type of treatment involves drug injections into the cerebrospinal fluid, high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy directed at the brain and spinal cord to reach the central nervous system and prevent cancer from spreading there.

In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first immunotherapy strategy to treat ALL. This type of immunotherapy is indicated for the treatment of Philadelphia chromosome-negative relapsed or refractory B-cell precursor ALL. This type of immunotherapy may be used for people who have B-cell ALL that hasn’t responded to treatment or B-cell ALL that has come back after treatment.

If neither of those descriptions applies to your specific situation, consider volunteering for a clinical trial. Additional immunotherapy strategies for various types and stages of leukemia are being studied in clinical trials. One particular strategy could open the door to treating early-stage ALL. Adoptive T-cell transfer (ACT) involves modifying the body’s own immune cells to recognize and attack tumors. Thus far, ACT research has been limited to small clinical trials for early-stage ALL, but the responses have been positive and research continues through clinical trials.

Clinical trials may give you access to leading-edge treatments that are not yet widely available. Explore the clinical trials currently taking place (see Clinical Trials), and ask your doctor for more information.


FDA-Approved Immunotherapies for ALL
As of 10/26/2016
blinatumomab (Blincyto)

Additional Resources


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