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Treatment Options for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Specific treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia will be determined by your doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the disease
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the disease
Your opinion or preference
Local and systemic treatments
Treatment for cancer is either local or systemic. Local treatments remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in one area. Doctors direct or target treatment at one part of your body. Radiation therapy is an example of local treatment.
Doctors use systemic treatments to destroy or control cancer cells throughout your entire body. If you take treatment by mouth or injection, it is considered a systemic treatment. Chemotherapy is an example of systemic treatment. In most cases, treatment for leukemia is systemic because cancer cells are in your bloodstream throughout your body.
You may have just one type of treatment or a combination. Different types of treatment have different goals. Here are some of the types of treatment and their goals for adults who have acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
The use of anticancer drugs to shrink or kill cancerous cells and reduce cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy is the main way to treat ALL. Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. Its goal is to stop the growth of cancer cells, putting the cancer into remission and keeping it there. Sometimes a doctor injects chemotherapy drugs directly into your spinal fluid or brain to prevent cancer growth or to reach cancer cells that may hide there. This is called intrathecal chemotherapy or central nervous system (CNS) prophylaxis. You may also have chemotherapy combined with a stem cell transplant. Stem cells restore blood cells lost during high-dose chemotherapy treatment.
method of replacing blood-forming cells destroyed by cancer treatment
to help the bone marrow recover and continue to make healthy blood
If the normal doses of chemotherapy don't work or your doctor feels you need a stem cell transplant to cure your disease, you may get very high doses of chemotherapy. These high doses can damage the stem cells in your bone marrow. Stem cells are the "starter" cells for all types of blood cells. So you may get high-dose chemotherapy (sometimes along with radiation), followed by an infusion of blood stem cells. Most often these cells come from a donor who matches your tissue type, but in some cases the stem cells may be taken from your blood or bone marrow before you get treatment and frozen until you need them. This is called a bone marrow stem cell transplant or peripheral blood stem cell transplant.
Targeted therapies can target cancerous cells without affecting healthy tissue, unlike radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Some newer drugs specifically target abnormal proteins, such as those caused by the Philadelphia chromosome. Drugs such as imatinib (Gleevec) and dasatinib (Sprycel) may be helpful in the treatment of ALL that has this chromosome. These drugs are taken daily as pills.
Patients with leukemia are evaluated and treated in Stanford's Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant clinics by a team of world-renowned doctors. We offer advanced chemotherapy protocols for leukemia and Stanford hematologists have helped develop the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines for the management of hematologic malignancies. Our goal is to improve the survival and quality of life of patients.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.