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What is acute lymphoblastic leukemia?

In the form of leukemia known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a group of white blood cells called lymphocytes is affected. It is also sometimes called acute lymphocytic leukemia or lymphoid leukemia. ALL accounts for about 75 to 80 percent of the childhood leukemias. Leukemia is the most common form of cancer in children, affecting about 3,000 children each year in the United States, accounting for about 30 percent of childhood cancers.

How do we care for acute lymphoblastic leukemia?

Children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia are treated through the Leukemia Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s has played a key role in refining treatment for childhood leukemia, resulting in today's cure rates of more than 85 percent for pediatric ALL. We continue to lead leukemia clinical trials designed to increase cure rates, decrease treatment-related side effects, and improve care for long-term survivors. Search our clinical trials.

Find in-depth information on acute lymphoblastic leukemia on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute website, including answers to:

  • What are the symptoms of ALL?
  • How is ALL diagnosed?
  • What is relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia?
  • What is the best treatment for ALL in children?
  • What is the latest research on ALL in children?
  • What is the long-term outlook for ALL in children?

CAR T-cell therapy (KYMRIAH™) for ALL

Boston Children’s is now offering CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy for eligible patients up to the age of 25 with relapsed or treatment-resistant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

The CAR T-cell therapy, known as KYMRIAH™, is a form of gene therapy that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017. It works by genetically altering the body's T-cells — immune system cells — to detect and destroy infected ‭or cancerous cells. A sample of a patient's T-cells is collected and modified in the lab to produce special structures called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. Once returned to the patient through an IV infusion, these “supercharged” T-cells are able to latch onto a specific antigen on the patient's cancer cells and destroy them.‬‬‬‬‬‬

KYMRIAH™ is indicated for patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia that is refractory or in second or later relapse. We are also a certified treatment center for providing KYMRIAH™ to patients who are 18 and older with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma.

Learn about how CAR T-cell therapy works.

For more information about KYMRIAH™ or to refer a patient, email the Gene Therapy Program at gene.therapy@childrens.harvard.edu.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) | Programs & Services