• Leukemia Treatment Program

    childhood leukemia patient

    The Hematologic Malignancy 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 pediatric hematologist/oncologists treat children with all types of childhood leukemia:

    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.

    How We Diagnose & Treat Leukemia

    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. CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy is a promising new treatment for relapsed ALL that modifies the patient’s own T-cells to target and destroy cancer cells. 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.

    Our Leukemia Treatment Specialists

    Patients at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's 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 specialists, 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.

    Leukemia Research & Clinical Trials

    Dana-Farber/Boston Children's is actively engaged in leukemia clinical trials, leading to new therapies and aiming for eventual cures. Our clinical team works closely with leukemia researchers to quickly develop new treatments based on the latest scientific discoveries. Clinical trials at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's are designed to investigate new therapies for refractory or relapsed leukemia, novel combinations of chemotherapy drugs, and promising new treatment agents. Our researchers are conducting randomized clinical studies to reduce treatment intensity to lessen side effects and to test more intense and newer therapies to improve cure rates. In addition, our researchers have joined forces with scientists at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT to identify a previously unrecognized AML target that responds well to drugs that kill cancer cells and may be an excellent candidate for use in clinical trials.
  • Leukemia Clinical Trials

    We offer promising experimental therapies for all types of leukemia.callout bg
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  • Video: Leukemia Treatment and Research

    Kimberly Stegmaier, MD, discusses current research aimed at finding new drug targets for children with leukemia and other cancers.