Chemotherapy for Leukemia

Chemotherapy is an important part of treatment for many patients with leukemia, especially those who are not eligible to take part in clinical trials. It is given in many phases, with the ultimate goal of destroying all abnormal leukemia cells.

Induction therapy is first-line chemotherapy given to induce (cause) a complete remission, or absence of leukemia, in the bone marrow and blood. At Roswell Park, induction treatment is typically provided in a state-of-the art inpatient unit staffed by a team of nurses who focus exclusively on leukemia patients. Because chemotherapy can also damage healthy cells, patients receiving induction therapy at Roswell Park spend approximately one month in the hospital so their health can be monitored closely.

To offer the best chance of destroying any leftover leukemia cells and prevent the disease from coming back (relapsing), additional rounds of high-dose chemotherapy agents are given monthly on an outpatient basis for several months. This is called consolidation or intensification therapy. Treatment is provided in our specialized Leukemia Center, located on the ground floor of the hospital. In some patients, this is followed by maintenance therapy, which consists of an additional 12-24 months of chemotherapy pills and injections to prevent the leukemia from ever coming back.