Improving the outlook for children
More children than ever are cured of leukaemia
In 1960 when Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research was founded, most children diagnosed with leukaemia had no hope of survival. Now thanks to our research, nine out of ten children survive the most common form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
Our scientists pioneered the minimal residual disease (MRD) test, which predicts how well children with ALL are likely to respond to treatment. The MRD test, which detects leukaemia cells in the blood to an accuracy of 1 in 10,000 cells, enables doctors to increase or decrease the intensity of treatment according to each child’s needs.
The MRD test, which has spared many children the gruelling side effects of chemotherapy, really is saving lives. It has been so successful that the NHS is now paying for every child diagnosed with ALL in the UK to be given the MRD test as a standard part of their treatment.
Confirming cancer stem cells in childhood ALL
In January 2008 breakthrough research confirmed that childhood ALL develops in the womb. Our researcher compared blood cells from identical twins Olivia, who was being treated for leukaemia, and Isabella who is healthy. The study found the same genetically identical pre-leukaemic stem cells in both children.
Research is now underway to understand how these pre-leukaemic stem cells are converted into full-blown leukaemia in some children and not others. Evidence suggests that the ‘second trigger’ is related to an unusual response to infection.