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Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview

Successful treatment of ALL consists of the control of bone marrow and systemic disease and the treatment (or prevention) of sanctuary-site disease, particularly the central nervous system (CNS).[1,2] The cornerstone of this strategy includes systemically administered combination chemotherapy with CNS preventive therapy. CNS prophylaxis is achieved with chemotherapy (intrathecal and/or high-dose systemic therapy) and, in some cases, cranial radiation therapy.

Treatment is divided into the following three phases:

  • Remission induction.
  • CNS prophylaxis.
  • Postremission (also called remission continuation or maintenance).

The average length of treatment for ALL varies between 1.5 and 3 years in the effort to eradicate the leukemic cell population. Younger adults with ALL may be eligible for selected clinical trials for childhood ALL. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment for more information.)

Entry into a clinical trial is highly desirable to assure adequate patient treatment and maximal information retrieval from the treatment of this highly responsive, but usually fatal, disease.

Table 2. Standard Treatment Options for Adult ALL

Disease StatusStandard Treatment Options
CNS = central nervous system.
Untreated ALLRemission induction therapy
CNS prophylaxis therapy
ALL in remissionPostremission therapy
CNS prophylaxis therapy
Recurrent ALLReinduction chemotherapy
Palliative radiation therapy


  1. Clarkson BD, Gee T, Arlin ZA, et al.: Current status of treatment of acute leukemia in adults: an overview of the Memorial experience and review of literature. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol 4 (3): 221-48, 1986.
  2. Hoelzer D, Gale RP: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia in adults: recent progress, future directions. Semin Hematol 24 (1): 27-39, 1987.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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