Matilda S
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How we're beating childhood leukaemia today

Matilda S
Posted by
12 Dec 2011

Now nine in ten children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer, are being cured; a remarkable turnaround for a previously untreatable disease.

The cure rates for children with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) are now around 65 percent.

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research are currently investing £12 million into leading UK research to further improve treatments for children with blood cancer and ultimately to fine a cure.

Clinical trials

Historically since the 1970s the UKALL trials, a series of national studies which details treatment for all children with leukaemia, have been paid for by the Department of Health. However, in 2010, changes in funding rules threatened the continuation of these important studies.

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, in collaboration with Children with Cancer and Cancer Research UK stepped in to fund the next stage, UKALL2011. This will guarantee that breakthroughs in treatment and care for children with ALL is shared by doctors across the UK.

Difficult to treat children

We are now investing in research to identify new chemotherapy treatments to help those children with leukaemia that is difficult to treat.

Research has shown that AML in children is very similar to AML in adults. We are investing in research to find safe doses of adult chemotherapy drugs that can be used to treat children.

Cord blood transplants

It's an exciting time in the field of transplantation as scientists have recently discovered that cord blood transplants, a last chance cure for many children with blood cancer and immune disorders, are much more powerful that was previously realised.

Our research is looking into why this is, and how we can harness this power to treat children who don't respond to conventional treatments.

Refining treatments

We also continue to refine existing treatments to make them safer and more effective, and reduce the side effects for children.

For example, we are developing a newer version of the MRD test that uses different technology, called flow cytometry, to identify residual leukaemia cells in the blood of children with leukaemia. This technology is cheaper and more efficient than the current molecular methods.


It's important for all researchers into any disease to have access to reliable samples of cells and DNA from patients.

In 2011 Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research opened the Childhood Leukaemia Biobank in Manchester, a central resource to enable researchers around the UK to access quality samples from children with leukaemia who have been entered into clinical trials.

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research have been investing in cell banks for a number of years, but this is the first centralised facility and it will ensure high quality storage and increased access for research.

Genetic insight into childhood leukaemia

Understanding the genetics behind leukaemia is vital to improving treatments.

The latest research shows that the genetic mutations present in leukaemia cells differ greatly even within individual patients.

We continue to invest in cutting-edge research focused on understanding what these mutations are and how they develop so that we can tailor treatments target leukaemia cells in individual patients.

Treatments today: read Ben Charlton's story