ALL, also known as acute lymphocytic leukemia, is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the soft inner part of certain bones where new blood cells are made.1
ALL occurs when a bone marrow cell develops errors in its DNA.1 The errors tell the cell to continue growing and dividing, when a healthy cell would normally stop and eventually die.1 Blood cell production becomes abnormal, and the bone marrow produces immature cells that develop into leukemic white blood cells called lymphoblasts.1 These immature cells are unable to function properly and can outnumber healthy cells.1
Treatment for ALL typically includes chemotherapy, with the goal of achieving complete remission, meaning that leukemia cells are no longer found in bone marrow samples, normal marrow cells return, and counts of certain types of cells in the blood return to normal levels. But even a remission is not necessarily a cure, as leukemia cells may still be hiding somewhere in the body.2 If the leukemia is refractory, meaning that it doesn't go away with the first treatment, clinical trials and additional therapies may be considered, including monoclonal antibodies and stem cell transplants.
Over the past several decades, advances in ALL testing and treatment have resulted in improved remission and cure rates, primarily among children.4 More work, however, remains to be done, and researchers are studying new therapies in clinical trials for patients of all ages.4
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Sources: 1. Mayo Clinic. “Acute lymphocytic leukemia.” Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acute-lymphocytic-leukemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20369077. Accessed on: September 23, 2019. 2. American Cancer Society. “Treating Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).” Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-lymphocytic-leukemia/treating.html. Accessed on September 23, 2019. 3. American Cancer Society. “Typical Treatment of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).” Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/acute-lymphocytic-leukemia/treating/typical-treatment.html. Accessed on September 23, 2019. 4. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.” Available at: https://www.lls.org/sites/default/files/file_assets/PS33_ALL_2018_final.pdf. Accessed on September 23, 2019.