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Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Treatment of Recurrent Childhood ALL


CNS relapse

Standard treatment options for childhood ALL that has recurred in the CNS include the following:

  1. Systemic and intrathecal chemotherapy.
  2. Cranial or craniospinal radiation.

While the prognosis for children with isolated CNS relapse had been quite poor in the past, aggressive systemic and intrathecal therapy followed by cranial or craniospinal radiation has improved the outlook, particularly for patients who did not receive cranial radiation during their first remission.[15,82,83,84]

Evidence (chemotherapy and radiation therapy):

  1. In a Pediatric Oncology Group (POG) study using this strategy, children who had not previously received radiation therapy and whose initial remission was 18 months or longer had a 4-year EFS rate of approximately 80% compared with EFS rates of approximately 45% for children with CNS relapse within 18 months of diagnosis.[84]
  2. In a follow-up POG study, children who had not previously received radiation therapy and who had initial remission of 18 months or more were treated with intensive systemic and intrathecal chemotherapy for 1 year followed by 18 Gy of cranial radiation only.[15] The 4-year EFS was 78%. Children with an initial remission of less than 18 months also received the same chemotherapy but had craniospinal radiation (24 Gy cranial/15 Gy spinal) as in the first POG study and achieved a 4-year EFS of 52%.

A number of case series describing SCT in the treatment of isolated CNS relapse have been published.[85,86]

Evidence (SCT):

  1. In a study comparing outcome of patients treated with either HLA-matched sibling transplants or chemoradiotherapy as in the POG studies above, 8-year probabilities of leukemia-free survival adjusted for age and duration of first remission were similar (58% and 66%, respectively).[87][Level of evidence: 3iiiDii] This retrospective, registry-based study included transplantation of both early (<18 months from diagnosis) and late relapses.
    • Because of the relatively good outcome of patients with isolated CNS relapse more than 18 months from diagnosis treated with chemoradiation therapy alone (>75%), transplantation is generally not recommended for this group.
    • The use of transplantation to treat isolated CNS relapse occurring less than 18 months from diagnosis, especially T-cell CNS relapse, requires further study.
    • The use of post-HSCT intrathecal chemotherapy has been controversial, although the most current data suggest no benefit.[48,88]

Testicular relapse

The results of treatment of isolated testicular relapse depend on the timing of the relapse. The 3-year EFS of boys with overt testicular relapse during therapy is approximately 40%; it is approximately 85% for boys with late testicular relapse.[89]

Standard treatment options for childhood ALL that has recurred in the testes include the following:

  1. Chemotherapy.
  2. Radiation therapy.

The standard approach for treating isolated testicular relapse in North America is to administer chemotherapy plus radiation therapy.


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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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