Treating Childhood Leukemia

Roswell Park Oishei Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Program treats children with leukemia and children with lymphoma. When you visit our facility, you’ll see that it’s designed for the special needs of children and their families who are dealing with life-threatening or ongoing (chronic) illnesses.

You’ll meet with world-renowned doctors who specialize in leukemia and lymphoma. These leaders in research will help you feel confident that your child is being treated by an expert. Our physicians are available for second opinions to help provide additional information to assist in your child’s care.

Leukemia

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow (produces blood cells). A child with leukemia suffers from an abnormal production of blood cells, generally leukocytes (white blood cells).

There are many types of leukemia including:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)

When leukemia is suspected, physicians will run tests to learn what type of leukemia is present.

These tests include:

  • Laboratory studies
  • Bone marrow aspiration (where a small sample is taken from the soft tissue inside your bones)
  • Bone marrow biopsy
  • Lumbar puncture (a needle is carefully inserted into the spinal canal low in the back, and samples of cerebral spinal fluid are collected).

We also carry out molecular testing to screen for possible changes in the DNA of leukemia cells that cannot be seen under a microscope.

We offer specialized diagnostic testing and treatments that are not offered at many centers that treat children with leukemia, including clinical trials offered through the DFCI ALL Consortium.

Treating Leukemia in Children

Roswell Park now offers the FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy Kymriah™ for patients 25 and younger who have been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that has either relapsed (gone into remission and then returned) or is refractory (has not gone into remission despite treatment).

Chemotherapy is usually the first therapy for all types of leukemia in children. Stem cell transplant is also used to treat leukemia, especially AML and CML, though it is seldom used for ALL.

Other treatments include:

  • Blood transfusions to supplement or replace red blood cells and platelets.
  • Antibiotics to fight or protect against infection are also used to treat leukemia.
  • Nutrition support to help manage the side effects of the treatment.