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Lower Doses of Chemo Effective in Children

Study based on patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia

MONDAY, May 16, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Lower doses of chemotherapy appear equally effective in treating many children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and may help reduce the number of long-term side effects, new study results suggest.

ALL is the most common childhood cancer in the United States, with about 3,500 new cases diagnosed each year. Most patients have about an 80 percent chance of survival after eight years, the researchers note.

"While the cure rates for this cancer have dramatically improved over the years, many children have considerable long-term side effects, such as significant drops in IQ scores, growth failure and infertility. We wanted to identify patients whose cancer we could cure, while minimizing the long-term effects of the treatment," study author Dr. Allen Chauvenet said in a prepared statement.

Chauvenet is a pediatric oncologist at Brenner Children's Hospital, part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

He and his colleagues used relatively limited amounts of chemotherapy in 650 ALL patients identified as having an excellent chance of cure. The study found that 86.4 percent of the patients were "event-free" survivors and 95.9 percent were overall survivors at the end of 10 years.

Event-free survivors are those who suffered no relapses or second malignancies. Overall survivors experienced one of those conditions, but were still alive at the end of the study period.

"This showed us that using limited chemotherapy worked in a large number of cases with minimal complications. The next step would be to fine-tune the identification of those patients upfront so that long-term side effects could be avoided in as many patients as possible," Chauvenet said.

The study was scheduled to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, in Washington, D.C.

More Information

The American Cancer Society has more about treatment of ALL.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, May 16, 2005
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