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Chemotherapy proves life-saving for some leukemia patients who fail induction therapy
Date:4/11/2012

An international study found that bone marrow transplants are not the best option for some young patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who fail to attain clinical remission after the initial weeks of intense chemotherapy known as induction therapy.

The largest study ever of such pediatric ALL patients identified a subset of young children who achieved 10-year survival rates of 72 percent after additional chemotherapy rather than bone marrow transplantation. The patients are among the estimated 85 percent of children with ALL whose cancer begins in white blood cells destined to become B cells.

The results appear in the April 12 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study involved researchers from 14 research groups in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

"Induction failure is a rare event, affecting just 2 to 3 percent of all pediatric ALL patients. But these children are at very high risk for a bad outcome and were always considered candidates for bone marrow transplantation," said Ching-Hon Pui, M.D., chair of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Department of Oncology. "These results tell us that induction failure should no longer be considered an automatic indication for a transplant." Pui is the study's corresponding author.

Improvements in both chemotherapy and transplantation prompted investigators to revisit the question of optimal care for these patients. But no single institution or nation had enough patients to answer it. "This study shows the importance of international collaboration to advance the treatment outcome for these patients," said first author Martin Schrappe, M.D., University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel, Germany.

Investigators evaluated the outcomes of 44,017 ALL patients age 17 and younger whose cancer was discovered during a 15-year period ending in December 2000. Each was treated on a clinical trial at one of the centers participating in this internat
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Contact: Summer Freeman
summer.freeman@stjude.org
901-595-3061
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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