The Hematologic Malignancies Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is home to one of the top pediatric leukemia treatment programs in the world. Our specialists treat children with newly diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).
Our program has played a leading role in refining treatment for childhood leukemia, resulting in today’s cure rates of more than 90 percent for ALL – and we continue to lead clinical trials designed to increase cure rates, decrease treatment-related side effects, and improve care for long-term survivors.
Our pediatric hematopathologists are nationally recognized for their expertise in diagnosing leukemia, using a range of tests to make a diagnosis and determine what type of leukemia is present. These advanced diagnostic techniques include laboratory studies, bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, and lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to see if leukemia cells are present. In addition, we conduct molecular testing to screen for specific chromosomal abnormalities and use specialized methods to detect levels of disease that cannot be seen under a microscope.
Leukemia treatment protocols designed by Dana-Farber/Boston Children's physician experts are used by numerous medical institutions in the United States and Canada. These protocols offer the best published cure rates for children with ALL.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are standard, first-line therapies for all types of childhood leukemia. Stem cell transplant is also used to treat leukemia, especially AML and CML; it is seldom used for ALL, except for certain rare sub-types of the disease or if it has relapsed after initial treatment. Biologic therapy to get the body’s immune system to fight the cancer is also used to treat AML and CML. Sanctuary therapy (spinal chemotherapy and cranial radiation) may be used with ALL patients to treat leukemia cells that may be hiding in the brain and spinal fluid and to prevent relapse. Blood transfusions to replace or supplement red blood cells and platelets and antibiotics to fight or protect against infection are additional common leukemia treatments.
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's patients have access to the broadest set of pediatric, hematologic and oncologic expertise available. The breadth of our expertise allows us to assemble a team of specialists to meet the specific needs of each patient.
At the core of the treatment team is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist who specializes in treating leukemia. Many of our leukemia specialists are also active researchers, so our patients have access to the very best and up-to-date treatments available. From there, we build a team that is best suited to carry out the patient’s treatment plan, including hematopathologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, stem cell transplantation physicians, and pediatric oncology nurses, all with specific expertise in treating childhood leukemia. Our team also includes experts from every pediatric medical specialty, including cardiology, endocrinology, neurology, pulmonology, and infectious diseases, among others.
We round out the team with experts who help the child prepare for life during and after treatment, including psychiatrists and psychologists, child life specialists, social workers, nutritionists, and school specialists.
Stephen Sallan, MD describes symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children.