Acute lymphoblastic leukemia ALL

Seventy-five percent of all children with leukemia have ALL. It is caused by a rapid proliferation of immature lymphocytes (lymphoblasts), which would normally have developed into mature T cells or B cells. There are several subgroups of ALL based on whether the cancer cells developed from precursors of B cells or T cells, or whether they display characteristics of both.

The first sample of bone marrow taken from the child is analyzed to identify characteristics of the leukemia cells, in order to help plan the best therapy and predict how the child will respond to treatment. Different subtypes of leukemia may require different types of treatment; some can be cured with less chemotherapy, while others require aggressive treatment to achieve a cure.

I was walking around the hospital looking shell shocked the day after my daughter was admitted to Children's Hospital with leukemia. One of the other mothers came up, introduced herself, and asked what we were in for. I told her leukemia. She told me that her son had just relapsed again from a brain tumor. She looked wistful and said how much she wished that her son had ALL. She said, "You might think that's strange, but I see those kids come, get better, and go home. We are still here."

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