Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), also called acute lymphocytic leukemia, is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. This type of cancer is the most common type of cancer in children, and it usually gets worse quickly if it is not treated.
Normally, the bone marrow makes blood stem cells (immature cells) that develop into mature blood cells over time. In ALL, the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Instead of maturing, they become lymphoblasts called leukemia cells. The leukemia cells are not able to fight infection very well. Also, as the number of leukemia cells increases in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy cells. This may lead to infection, anemia and easy bleeding.
There are different subgroups of ALL based on:
- The age of the child at diagnosis
- The type of blood cell affected
- Whether there are certain changes in the chromosomes
Different types of treatment are available depending on the ALL subgroup. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Treatment may include:
- Radiation therapy
- Stem cell transplantation
- Targeted therapy (which uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells)
The full-time pediatric hematologist oncologists affiliated with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital treat cancer and bleeding disorders in children and diagnose and provide all of your child’s treatments right here in the Lehigh Valley. Because our pediatric oncology practice is part of the Children’s Oncology Group, a National Cancer Institute coalition of more than 230 children’s hospitals, our patients have access to the latest therapies and national clinical trials.