There are a number of different types of leukaemia that affect people during childhood and early adulthood. ‘Childhood’ leukaemia is the term commonly used to describe leukaemias that are most common in younger children. However, these types of leukaemia are also diagnosed in teenagers and young adults. Although we know that teenagers and young adults have needs that are different from those of young children, the medical treatment they receive is often the same, and it is important that they are included in research to improve care for these conditions.
In the UK we normally expect to see just over 400 cases of leukaemia diagnosed each year in children under 14 years old. About 85% of these are acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and most of the rest are acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
Most cases of ALL in children arise in cells that would normally develop into B cells (or B lymphocytes). This is sometimes referred to as B cell ALL. A rarer form arises in cells that normally develop into T cells and is sometimes called T cell ALL. Scientists are further sub-dividing these types of ALL based on the genetic changes they see in cancer cells. Infant ALL is different from both these other forms, and is a rare and aggressive type of leukaemia that develops in babies under 12 months of age. We are supporting research into all of these leukaemias.
Our research is looking into smarter and kinder treatments, and seeking ways to improve the diagnosis and outcome and treatments for children with leukaemia. We are also supporting a project that is looking into what causes infant ALL to develop. And to find out more about how we are looking into why some children with Down’s Syndrome are more prone to developing AML, click here.