Leukemia - Acute Lymphoblastic - ALL - Childhood: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2014

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Doctors are working to learn more about ALL, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your child’s doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for your child.

Monitoring leukemia recurrence. New methods for detecting small numbers of leukemia cells that can’t be seen under a microscope were introduced in the 1990s. These techniques are now being used to detect minimal residual disease (MRD) after remission. There are times when measurements of MRD, in blood or bone marrow samples, will be used to determine your child’s risk level and treatment. Research is ongoing to determine the level of MRD, measured at which time point, that affects the rate of recurrence. This research also looks at whether changes in treatment will change the meaning of MRD measurements and their effect on the cure. Currently, researchers are studying the relationship between the biology of the leukemia cells and these measurements. 

New treatments. Finding new ways to treat leukemia are important areas of research. New drugs to kill leukemia cells, such as the T-cell-specific drug nelarabine (Arranon) and the antibody epratuzumab (LymphoCide) are being studied and may improve the cure rate for children with ALL in the future. Other new treatments—antibodies, chemotherapy, and other biologically active treatments—are being studied with the hope that they will increase the cure rate and/or decrease the likelihood of side effects.

Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current childhood ALL treatments in order to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding childhood ALL, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • Review research announced at recent scientific meetings or in ASCO’s peer-reviewed journals.
  • Visit ASCO’s CancerProgress.Net website to learn more about the historical pace of research for childhood cancer. Please note this link takes you to a separate ASCO website. 

The next section addresses how to cope with the symptoms of the disease or the side effects of its treatment. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Coping with Side Effects, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.