(WASHINGTON, June 2, 2014) An estimated 25 percent of children in remission from acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) are missing too many doses of an essential maintenance medication that minimizes their risk of relapse, according to a study published online today in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology. The study also reports that maintenance medication adherence was lower in African American and Asian children in remission from ALL than in non-Hispanic white children, with 46 percent of African Americans and 28 percent of Asians not taking enough to prevent relapse, compared with 14 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the white blood cells, is the most common form of childhood cancer. While more than 95 percent of children with ALL enter remission within a month of receiving initial cancer therapy, one in five will relapse. In order to remain cancer-free, children in remission from ALL must take a form of oral chemotherapy every day for two years (called 6-mercaptopurine, or 6MP) that protects the body against disease reemergence.
Despite the proven benefits of 6MP, previous studies have suggested that children with ALL have difficulty taking the drug consistently. Other studies have reported that pediatric ALL survival rates vary greatly among racial groups. These two insights have prompted investigators to begin studying race-specific patterns in 6MP adherence in children with ALL.
"While we don't yet know why children of different races have significantly different survival rates for ALL, we know that their adherence to their maintenance medication is a critical factor in their survival," said senior study author Smita Bhatia, MD, MPH, o
|Contact: Amanda Szabo|
American Society of Hematology