Leukemia - Acute Lymphocytic - ALL: Latest Research

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2014

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about ALL 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, ways to prevent it, 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. Most cancer centers are actively involved in clinical trials aimed at increasing the rate of cure for people with ALL. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

New drugs and treatment regimens. Researchers are looking at the use of new types of chemotherapy, as well as different schedules and doses of current drugs. The drug clofarabine has been approved for children with recurrent ALL and is being researched for adults with ALL. The drug bortezomib (Velcade) is being researched as an option for adults with ALL. In addition, several studies have shown that adolescents and younger to middle-aged adults benefit from the more intensive treatments most often used for younger children with ALL.

Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Researchers are studying the use of different antibodies directed against ALL cells, including inotuzumab ozogamicin, blinatumomab, rituximab (Rituxan), and alemtuzumab (Campath). In addition, researchers are looking at a new therapy called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy or CAR T-cell therapy that uses the patient’s T-cells to attack the leukemia cells.

Stem cell/bone marrow transplantation. Different ways to make stem cell transplantation (see Treatment Options) safer and easier are also being studied.

Tests to detect small amounts of ALL after treatment. Researchers are studying other molecular or immunologic tests that can help find small amounts of ALL in patients in remission. Then, a change in treatment may prevent the ALL from coming back.

Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current 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 leukemia, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now.
  • Review research announced at the 2011 and 2012 ASCO Annual Meetings. 
  • Visit ASCO’s CancerProgress.Net website to learn more about the historical pace of research for leukemia. 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.