One of the most devastating types of childhood cancer, Philadelphia chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph + ALL), now has hope. A Ph+ ALL study, funded in part by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and conducted by the Children’s Oncology Group, has improved cure rates from 20% to 70%! In over 50 years, no progress had been made for this rare type of childhood cancer, but the results of this study bring major advancements have been made that will greatly impact the lives of all children with this type of leukemia
Dr. Kirk Schultz, director of Childhood Cancer and Blood Research of British Columbia Children’s Hospital and Child and Family Research Institute, was interested in finding not only a less toxic alternative to the historic bone marrow transplant treatment for kids with Ph+ ALL, but also a way to decrease amounts of chemotherapy by using a drug that could target the genetic abnormality that was causing the cancer.
Dr. Schultz and his team found that solely using targeted drug, Gleevec, did not do too much for the patient. When put in combination with typical chemotherapy, however, there was significant improvement in the survival of children!
The strategy of targeting genetic abnormalities with drugs, in combination with chemotherapy, is now being pursued in other types of high-risk leukemias and has begun to change the way ALL is treated around the world.
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