Acute Lymphoid Leukemia Symptoms and Treatment Options

Currently,there are important advances in treating acute lymphoid leukemia. The cure rate is between 80% and 90%, although in some of these cases the disease reoccurs. See why!

Acute lymphoid leukemia is a complex disease that groups together a set of related diseases. Those affected have different subtypes of it and, therefore, the prognosis may be different for each of them.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia is a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow and can appear at any age. Its incidence in children and adults is low, of little more than 1 per 100,000 cases. Despite this, it is the most frequent type of cancer in those under 20 years of age.

Its definition is a cancer of the hematological cells, in which there is a predominance of immature cells that are precursors of the lymphocytes. It occurs when the lymphoblasts become malignant, giving rise to a large number of immature lymphocytes.

General aspects of treatment

The treatment of acute lymphoid leukemia occurs in several stages, including the administration of chemotherapy.

The main objective in the treatment of acute lymphoid leukemia is to achieve the cure. Currently, many children with this disease are cured. The rate of cure in adults has also increased, while re-incidents are reduced.

Treatment may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, stem cell transplantation or new treatments under study. The classic treatment for acute lymphoid leukemia consists of three stages:

Induction therapy. It is the first cycle of chemotherapy treatment. In fact, it usually starts immediately, requires hospitalization and lasts between 4 and 6 weeks. It seeks to eliminate malignant cells and restore the normal level of blood cells.

Consolidation or intensification therapy. It is carried out when the disease remits. The goal is to prevent it from reappearing. It consists of applying chemotherapy in cycles, during a period of 4 to 6 months. It is possible that stem cell transplantation is indicated.

Maintenance therapy. It has the same objective as the previous phase. It is done during the 2 years following the referral.

Childhood treatment of acute lymphoid leukemia

In childhood leukemia, there is close monitoring of the long-term effects it can have on health.

In the treatment of acute lymphoid leukemia in children, doctors pay special attention to side effects and late effects. That is why periodic follow-up examinations become very important.

The main risks of child treatment are that the following effects occur in the long term:

  • Problems of the heart, blood vessels, liver, bones or fertility.

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  • Difficulties in the state of mind, in thinking, memory or learning. The risk is higher in children under 4 years old, who receive radiation therapy with focus to the brain.
  • Development of new types of cancer. Particularly thyroid, acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.

The treatment may include one or several methods: chemotherapy, radiotherapy (internal and external), stem cell transplantation, targeted therapy, central nervous system therapy and T cell therapy with chimeric antigen receptors.

For children who do not respond to treatment, doctors are currently using a method of targeted therapy with blinatumomab or inotuzumab. Likewise, there are advances in new studies on the therapy of T cells with chimeric antigen receptors.


Treatment in adults

The main risk in the treatment of acute lymphoid leukemia in adults is the recurrence of the disease. This is the main factor to prevent and evaluate in postremission therapy.

In the case of adults, basically the same methods as those for children work. However, doctors also include biological therapy. This is a treatment in which the patient’s own immune system is used to fight the disease.

Both children and adults can become part of the clinical trial of new treatments. This depends on whether they are suitable patients. You should always ask for this option to the treating doctor.

More information of interest

Between 80% and 90% of patients have complete remissions after treatment to combat acute lymphoid leukemia. However, between 30% and 40% returns to the disease. The cure rate is higher in younger patients.

Follow-up is very important in patients on a treatment for acute lymphoid leukemia. This includes physical exams, blood tests and, eventually, bone marrow tests. Strictly follow the doctor’s instructions in this regard.

After treatment it is convenient to adopt a healthier lifestyle. A better diet, balance between exercise and rest and quality of emotional life are more than great measures.

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