Leukemia Treatment at Winship Cancer Institute
During the last four decades, the prognosis of leukemia has changed dramatically. Now, most patients can live successfully managing their symptoms and some patients can be cured.
Treating Leukemia With Chemotherapy
Currently, the most effective treatment for leukemia is chemotherapy, which may involve one or a combination of anticancer drugs that destroy cancer cells. Each type of leukemia is sensitive to different combinations of chemotherapy. A "chemotherapy course" is the period of time from the start of the chemotherapy until the blood cell counts are back to normal. There are several different phases of the chemotherapy treatments for leukemia:
Bone Marrow Transplantation for Leukemia
Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT) is a form of treatment for leukemia patients. This treatment consists of destroying leukemic bone marrow cells using higher doses of chemotherapy (and in some cases, radiotherapy) and/or immune suppressive medications to permit to the donor's immune system to fight the leukemia. Because high-dose chemotherapy severely damages the bone marrow's ability to produce cells, healthy bone marrow cells are provided intravenously to stimulate new bone marrow growth.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Treatment
For patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia, additional phases are needed. These include:
Intrathecal (IT) Chemotherapy: chemotherapy is infused into the spinal canal through a spinal tap or a lumbar puncture to prevent central nervous system leukemia.
Several courses of a different combination of drugs are administered for up to two years. The short term goal of chemotherapy is to achieve a complete remission (CR), which means that no evidence of leukemia can be found in the blood and bone marrow. The long-term goal is to maintain this CR state.
Other Leukemia Treatment Options
Targeted Therapy: with small molecules (tyrosine kinase inhibitors) for CML, such as Gleevec (Imatinib Mesylate)
Monoclonal Antibody Therapy for AML, for example Myelotarg (Gemtuzimab-Ozogamycin)
Biological Therapy like Interferon alfa for CML and all trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) for acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Learn more about the Leukemia Program
Learn about current Leukemia Clinical Trials