Childhood leukemia survivors not receiving radiation have same life expectancy as general population

(MEMPHIS, TENN.--August 13) A new study from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital indicates that survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who have not received radiation treatment as part of their therapy have virtually the same long-term life experiences as the general population.

The findings, which appear in the August 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, result from a long-term follow-up study of a large number of childhood ALL survivors.

The study found that survivors who did not receive brain radiation as part of their treatment have survival, employment and marital rates comparable to those of the general population. However, people who had received brain radiation as part of their treatment for childhood ALL had a slight increase in death rate due to the development of second cancer, and higher unemployment rates than the general population. In addition, females had lower marital rates, according to Ching-Hon Pui, M.D., director of the Leukemia/Lymphoma division at St. Jude. Pui, the American Cancer Society F. M. Kirby Clinical Research Professor at St. Jude, is lead author of the study.

"The good news is that ALL patients who did not receive radiation therapy and achieved 10 years or more of survival after treatment without a significant problem can look forward to a normal extended survival," Pui said. "Patients who had received radiation need long-term monitoring for early diagnosis and treatment of second tumors. Fortunately, most of the second tumors are low grade in malignancy and can be cured readily."

The study defines the term "cure" for ALL patients as 10 or more years of complete cancer remission. "We and others previously observed the occurrence of relapse in patients who have been free of leukemia for five years after treatment and thus could not define cure with certainty," said Melissa Hudson, M.D., director of the After Completion of Therapy program at St. Jude and a senior author of the rep

Contact: Bonnie Cameron
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

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