Leukemia - Acute Lymphoblastic - ALL - Childhood: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about ALL, ways to treat it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to children 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 best diagnostic and treatment options 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 specific time point, that affects the rate of recurrence. 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), the antibody epratuzumab (LymphoCide), the bispecific T-cell engager (BiTE) antibody blinatumomab (Blincyto), and chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CAR T-cells) are being studied and may improve the cure rate for children with ALL in the future. Other new treatments — such as antibodies, new 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.

  • Palliative care/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 comfort and quality of life for patients.

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:

  • Visit the website of Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, to find out how to help support cancer research. Please note that this link takes you to a separate ASCO website. 

The next section in this guide is Coping with TreatmentIt offers some guidance on how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.