How is leukemia treated?
In general, most leukemia is treated primarily with chemotherapy (more rarely followed by radiation or a bone marrow transplant when necessary). The good news is that most children with leukemia are usually cured after chemotherapy, meaning they’re cancer-free five years out from treatment. By that point, it’s extremely rare for leukemia to come back.
How does chemotherapy work?
Chemotherapy can be given in many different ways, but its job is to kill cancer cells. Some chemotherapy is given as a pill or a liquid to swallow. Some is given in a vein, which is called intravenous, or IV. Other times, chemotherapy is injected into the skin or a muscle, similar to how vaccines can be given.
For about 80% of leukemia patients, chemotherapy alone will be enough. Here, our treatment regimens are carefully planned and optimized for each patient’s unique biology and treatment response by a dedicated team. These teams include a dedicated oncologist, pediatric nurse practitioner, physician assistant, nurse care-coordinator, oncology-specific physical and occupational therapists, child life specialists and dedicated pharmacists, all specializing specifically in leukemia care.
And as the largest center in Colorado for the treatment of pediatric leukemia, we have many additional programs and therapies available for newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patients, as well as for those whose leukemia may not have responded well to treatment or has returned after initially being treated.
Other therapies for leukemia treatment
Leukemia affects the bone marrow, so some childhood leukemia patients may benefit from bone marrow transplant when needed. Our large, nationally accredited Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapeutics Program is one of the most experienced programs of its kind in the country: We’ve performed more than 1,000 bone marrow and stem cell transplants in children over the past 25 years. Our specialty teams are world experts in bone marrow transplant and cellular therapeutics.
In addition, our Experimental Therapeutics Program is an international leader in novel treatments and interventions and is available to our leukemia patients who have not responded well to initial therapy or have relapsed.
For some patients whose leukemia has relapsed or who are not responding well to treatment, we also offer a new treatment known as CAR-T cell therapy, where the patient’s own immune cells are genetically modified to destroy cancer cells. This cutting-edge therapy is available at only a handful of pediatric cancer centers around the world.
Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado for your child’s leukemia?
At Children’s Colorado’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, our specialists are national and international leaders in the treatment of leukemias and other cancers and blood diseases. We’re the largest center in the region, and the most experienced: In fact, our highly specialized pediatric cancer experts are involved in developing treatment plans and regimens used around the world — which is why we’re able to offer leading-edge and proven oncology treatment protocols for leukemia with some of the best outcomes anywhere.
That’s true even for patients with rare and hard-to-treat forms of leukemia. Our Bone Marrow Transplant Program offers dedicated cellular therapy and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. We also offer phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials for relapsed leukemia. These clinical research trials advance the standard of care in pediatric oncology and have led to continuous improvements in leukemia remission and cure rates.
We recognize that childhood leukemia diagnosis and treatment is hard on kids and families, which is why we do our best to make the experience as easy as possible. We perform bone marrow tests under anesthesia to relieve the pain and anxiety for our patients. Our specialized pathologists can perform all the testing needed for bone marrow biopsies right here at the hospital, enabling a quick diagnosis for your child and family. And we offer many other resources (and can connect our patients and families with many more) to help ease the process.