Parker Hughes Cancer Center

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Scientists develop method to identify leukemia patients at high risk for relapse

September 6, 2000 Researchers from the Parker Hughes Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota, report new findings that demonstrate the quality of remission for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients after first relapse is lower than the quality of remission after initial chemotherapy. The results of this multi-institutional study are published in Clinical Cancer Research, the official scientific journal of the American Association of Cancer Research. The study involves 890 children with leukemia and establishes the value of a new cancer detection method.

ALL is the most common form of cancer in children. It is a curable disease responsive to several different treatment modalities, however, approximately one-fifth of patients eventually relapse. Early identification of those high risk patients would allow physicians the opportunity to alter therapy accordingly and thereby prevent an otherwise imminent relapse.

The results of this study show it is now possible within the first four weeks of initial diagnosis to identify children at high risk for failure. Such children have leukemic cells left stranded in their body. These cells can now be detected with a new method that permits the detection of a single leukemic cell among one million normal cells.

"The results of this study are consistent with the notion that patients with higher-risk ALL should receive more intensive postinduction chemotherapy than standard risk patients," said Dr. Fatih Uckun, president and director, Parker Hughes Institute, and lead author on the study. "Based on these findings, we will continue to design new and effective treatments for these children in an effort to eradicate any residual leukemia cells that escape initial chemotherapy."

Uckun FM, Stork L, Seibel N, Sarquis M, Bedros C, Sather H, Sensel M, Reaman G, Gaynon P. Residual Bone Marrow Leukemic Progenitor Cell Burden after Induction Chemotherapy in Pediatric Patients with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Clinical Cancer Research 6(8):3123-30, 2000.

The Parker Hughes Institute, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a non-profit research organization dedicated to eradicating cancer, AIDS, and diseases of the immune system. This research was funded by the National Cancer Institute.